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Construction halted on CK fields

Central Valley Road resident Mahlon Wixson stands on his property line. The two Pee Wee baseball fields lie beyond. Home plate in the nearby dirt infield is just yards from his front door. His complaints to commissioner Tim Botkin and planners over the past few months finally prompted them to take another look at the project. The fields will now have to go through a permitting process at no cost to developers Pete and Ron Ross.  - Photo by Kelly Everett
Central Valley Road resident Mahlon Wixson stands on his property line. The two Pee Wee baseball fields lie beyond. Home plate in the nearby dirt infield is just yards from his front door. His complaints to commissioner Tim Botkin and planners over the past few months finally prompted them to take another look at the project. The fields will now have to go through a permitting process at no cost to developers Pete and Ron Ross.
— image credit: Photo by Kelly Everett

Playing ball with a hornet’s nest might be easier than building a pair of ballfields on Central Valley Road.

Construction on two Pee Wee “practice” fields is still on hold while the county catches up on examining the project for the possible need for permits.

“Shortly after you called and your article came out in the paper,” said project head and landowner Pete Ross, referring to an Oct. 30 CK Reporter article,” ...the county called me in for a two-hour meeting and then another one-hour meeting.

“They’re talking about impervious surfaces and an environmental impact study and the hearing examiner. If we have to (create) a setback from the (nearby salmon) creek or add parking, or if they won’t let us exit onto the road, it’s going to kill the whole project. I’m not a happy camper,” said Ross.

He said he talked to the county in August before he started the project, and was given the green light. When asked who he talked to in the Department of Community Development (DCD), he said he got his OK from “a higher source.”

When asked which commissioner gave the OK, he said “I don’t want to say. It would just be politicized.”

CK Commissioner Tim Botkin confirmed talking to Ross.

“We had a conversation about a vacant lot” on Central Valley Road, said Botkin, “and I said it sure made sense to have more playing fields in CK. But I didn’t know the scope of what he was talking about. At one point our planning staff said it was OK, then they looked again and discovered it was not.”

Botkin denied he ever tried to streamline the process for Ross. He simply said he and Ross talked about it informally.

Botkin said the DCD did not start examining the project because of publicity.

Bruce Freeland, director of community development, said it was all a big misunderstanding.

“There’s been some confusion about this project,” he said. “Confusion that was partly our fault.”

Freeland said Ross was originally told the threshold for moving earth before the permitting process kicks in is 500 cubic yards. That was an error. The correct figure for that particular area is 150 cubic yards, and Ross acknowledged he’s probably moved more than that.

Also, said Freeland, “At least one neighbor complained, and we were reminded of the salmon stream behind the project.”

Freeland nonetheless applauded Ross’ efforts.

“They’ve actually done a wonderful job,” he said. “They put a silt fence up and stayed well back from the stream.” Also, because “we (the county) were in error” in the first place, and because the fields benefit the non-profit PeeWees, “The county is willing to waive the fees,” he said, which could add up to about $2,200.

But county law still requires examination of the proximity to the stream, and a review by the hearing examiner and commissioners — a process that can take months.

“We’re working hard to get it on the straight and narrow. We want the fields to happen,” said Freeland.

The location of the fields, at the southwest corner of Central Valley and Paulson roads, means it is NK Commissioner Chris Endresen’s constituency.

“I never talked to Mr. Ross,” she said, “I heard it was just going to be a little sandlot.”

The fields, on 1.2 acres, have already been leveled and seeded. Ross still wants to fence the area and put up backstop nets.

“We need the fields,” said Endresen. “I apologize to Mr. Ross for the confusion. We’ll work with him to make it possible.”

The complaining neighbor, Mahlon Wixson, who lives next to the fields to the south and whose front door is about 30 yards from home plate, said if the fields go ahead, he’ll have to move. Not only because of stray balls possibly going through his windows, but also because of the noise of kids and parents, and the traffic.

“There’s a tremendous safety issue here,” said Wixson, who said he would ordinarily be behind such a project, and he does support the Pee Wees. “In the 18 years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen seven fatalities on this road.” He pointed out that the edge of the ball field was just a few feet from Central Valley Road.

“People travel 50 mph along here,” Wixson said, adding the proximity of the stream may be a problem, too.

“We tried to build an addition to the house, but it was so difficult to get permission because of the stream, we had to abandon the project,” he said.

Wixson said construction stopped Aug. 9 by his telling construction workers he filed a complaint with the county.

Even though fees may be waived, Ross is still unhappy about delays and possible complications. Previously, he pointed out there are 48 Pee Wee sports teams and only five available ballfields in the area.

The Rosses, brothers Pete and real estate agent Ron, have been benefactors of the Pee Wees since 1965 and Ross Field at Waaga Way and Clear Creek Road is named for Pete Ross.

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