CUP decision due to be released shortly
Property owners on a ridge across from a proposed county gravel pit near Methow want Okanogan County to perform a complete analysis of the environmental impacts of the pit and to impose conditions to mitigate noise, dust and discharge into the ground and water.
“We’re not opposed to a gravel pit in Okanogan County — and not necessarily this one — but the county needs to do more analysis for a conditional-use permit [CUP],” attorney Mark Ryan told county hearing examiner Dan Beardslee at a hearing last week. Ryan represents 70 landowners in the Methow River Ranch Phase II Homeowners Association (HOA).
At the first hearing on the pit in November, Beardslee and members of the public asked for more precise, detailed information about the county’s plans.
There would be no noise, dust or toxic run-off from the pit, which would be on a bench high above the valley floor just north of the town of Methow, attorney Sandy Mackie told Beardslee. Mackie is representing Claude Miller, who has an agreement to sell 540 acres to the county for the pit for $1 million.
The HOA appealed the county’s claims that the pit would have little impact on noise, traffic, water adequacy and endangered species. But Mackie said the appeal should be thrown out because, while it was filed in time, the appeal fee wasn’t sent until after the deadline. Ryan said he’d missed the fee requirement because it was in a different section of the county code and mailed a check the next day. If accepted, the appeal and CUP will be consolidated.
The two existing pits in the Methow Valley are already depleted. Ryan said he understands that the county needs a gravel source for road work and winter road maintenance. Beardslee can attach conditions to the permit to address their concerns, such as limiting hours of operation and truck trips, Ryan said.
The conditions also need details about what they’ll do if a hose breaks — it’s not enough to say hazardous materials won’t enter ground or surface water, Ryan said.
Permit needs details
Permitting gravel pits is a two-step process, Mackie said. The county is only responsible for finding an appropriate site for the mine. The Washington Department of Natural Resources handles the mining plan and other necessary requirements, he said.
“Gravel pits are essential — everyone drove on a gravel or asphalt road to get here,” Mackie said. “The mere fact that it’s a gravel pit is not grounds for rejecting it. The issue is if it can be appropriately accommodated,” he said. Noting that he had worked on permitting for pits around the state, Mackie said the topography and a berm will buffer noise and visual impacts.
Although the county has met several times with members of the community about the proposed pit, conflicting information has sown confusion. County Engineer Josh Thomson stressed that the county hasn’t changed its estimates of truck trips to and from the pit. The county provided its first estimate — 1,900 trucks a year — at the hearing examiner’s first hearing in November, he said.
But Ryan’s appeal estimated 6,000 truck trips. Thomson speculated that some people extrapolated truck trips based on the pit operating 14 hours a day, seven days a week. After getting feedback from the community, the county restricted the hours to Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., barring emergencies, Thomson said.
The county has a purchase-and-sale agreement with Miller to buy the 540 acres. Because it needs only 149 acres for the pit, the county hopes to sell the remaining acres for public access and wildlife habitat. The pit itself would occupy 81 acres. The county will not buy the property if the CUP isn’t approved.
Beardslee said he would issue a written decision within 10 working days.