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Kitsap Lake gravel mine's green light has neighbors seeing red

Members of the Concerned Citizens of the Chico Creek Water Basin have distributed signs around the residential area where Craig Ueland has plans to begin operating a gravel mine. Some local citizens are protesting the mine because of the potentially damaging effects to local water ways, wildlife and roads. - Christopher Carter/staff photo
Members of the Concerned Citizens of the Chico Creek Water Basin have distributed signs around the residential area where Craig Ueland has plans to begin operating a gravel mine. Some local citizens are protesting the mine because of the potentially damaging effects to local water ways, wildlife and roads.
— image credit: Christopher Carter/staff photo

As the rest of his Kitsap Lake neighbors decried a gravel mining operation proposed near their houses, Ken Widell embraced the idea.

That is, until he realized trucks coming to and from the mining site at Ueland Tree Farm may travel through his front yard on Northlake Way.

"By the time they're done, there will be no front yards, no driveways and some of these houses are close to the road, they will lose their house," Widell said.

Kitsap County Hearing Examiner Kim Allen approved the 152-acre mining operation at the farm earlier this month and Widell, the only resident in the area to publicly support the plan, has changed his mind.

With the virtual opposition from the entire community, resident Jack Stanfill said he plans to file an appeal to the decision April 5 with the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners. The appeal asks commissioners to impose additional restrictions or conditions that Ueland would have to follow.

If the commissioners decide to hear the appeal, they can either make amendments to the hearing examiner's ruling by adding conditions or send the ruling back to the hearing examiner for further changes, said Commissioner Josh Brown.

If the appeal is rejected, Stanfill said he plans to take the issue to Superior Court for what he sees as the final stand.

"All we can do is use what's available to us in the court system."

The area west of Kitsap Lake on the 1,716-acre property belonging to Ueland Tree Farm would include gravel mines, rock quarries and a concrete batch plant. The project was proposed back in 2006 by the property's owner, Craig Ueland.

Bernie Fleming lives where Leber Lane and Northlake Way converge, a busy stretch of road once trucks begin hauling aggregate.

To Fleming, the ruling proved the county wasn't worried about the concerns of residents.

"They see big bucks in the Ueland project and we're just the little guys," he said.

But those opposed to the project don't have many options left to keep the trucks from rolling.

"The operation seems to be a reality as long as the people don't rise up to the county and stop what they're putting up there," said Stanfill who owns a house on Northlake Way. Stanfill is also a member of the group Concerned Citizens of the Chico Creek Water Basin which is pushing for the county to look at alternative routes in and out of the sites, among other concerns.

Despite the contention, the hearing examiner's ruling was not a surprise for Ueland or the residents.

Ueland filed for a motion for reconsideration following the ruling. Not because he didn't agree with the ruling, he said, but because it needed clarification on minor issues.

"We were obviously pleased with the ruling," Ueland said. "She was very thorough and thoughtful."

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