The City of Montesano has told a business to move its transfer site following numerous neighbor complaints about noise, traffic, as well as safety and health concerns.
Following several months of complaints from neighbors, the City of Montesano has issued an administrative decision as part of a zoning code review for three parcels owned by KD&S Environmental, Inc. How the company is using its three parcels on the west end of town is inconsistent with the city’s zoning, the decision concludes.
KD&S has appealed the decision noting that the company has “maintained use of the parcels consistently and lawfully for the past 15 years.”
Mayor Vini Samuel has recused herself from the matter, “due to an appearance of a conflict of interest,” according to Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wood. According to city Chief Financial Officer Doug Streeter, that appearance of a conflict of interest is with both the owner of KD&S and a complainant. Wood has been handling the matter in Samuel’s absence.
The parcels in question are zoned residential and are surrounded by residences. The company uses the parcels for outdoor storage of equipment, goods and materials and employee parking. Nearby residents have complained of dump trucks running at 6 a.m. and further noise at the same time from the trucks dumping material into dumpsters.
KD&S, according to its website, can be contracted for flooring removal, asbestos removal, lead removal and mold removal. Many of those materials can be hazardous to humans, and neighbors worry those materials are being brought to the parcels and what that might mean for their health.
The city has said it is interested only in the company’s compliance with city zoning. Other entities (the Olympia Region Clean Air Agency, the state Department of Ecology to name two) would regulate and issue permits for various activities at the parcels.
While the city attempted to navigate policy in dealing with the complaints and the parcels, complaints also were made at the county level.
Grays Harbor County Environmental Health Director Jeff Nelson said his department takes health concerns seriously, and the county sent an environmental health specialist to the site to investigate.
In an Aug. 4 letter to KD&S, county environmental health specialist Robert King wrote, “Based on available information, we did not observe any activities that would require direct permitting through this office. However, because of the nature of the work occurring at this site we have prepared comments which are attached for your information.”
The comments pointed the company to various WAC and related publications for best practices related to the materials and activities King saw on site.
“Through our rules and regulations, we have oversight of solid waste handling at a facility level,” Jeff Nelson said on Jan. 17, but he added that the KD&S parcels did not exactly qualify as the type of facility the county would oversee.
“If we had had any type of evidence to drop everything and focus more on that site, we would have,” Nelson added.
The county, he said, worked instead to coordinate other entities that do have oversight.
In a letter to a complainant dated Aug. 21, Nelson wrote that the county consulted with both the state Department of Ecology and the Department of Health.
“After consulting with the Environmental Toxicology Program at DOH we were advised that there are no obvious links between site operations and the health impacts described in your previous emails,” Nelson wrote.
For its part, the city had staff research zoning for the parcels and grandfathering rules dating back to at least the 1960s, Wood said.
The city also met with KD&S to discuss the situation on Oct. 23.
On Jan. 5, the city issued an administrative decision saying the activities are inconsistent with the city’s residential zoning.
“It is the opinion of city staff the type of use on your property is only allowed as a permitted use in an industrial zoned area or as a conditional use in heavy commercial zoning,” Wood wrote in the administrative decision.
The company has until Feb. 9 to comply with a cease and desist order that was part of the administrative decision.
KD&S had told the city their use of the parcels has been consistent over the past 15 years.
Prior to the decision and the cease and desist, KD&S had been working to relocate operations to an industrial zoned property at the south of the city next to Fox Lumber (formerly Mary’s River Lumber). The company has said the property needs improvements to keep equipment safe from flooding, but a majority of operations had been moved to the new site already.
In the city’s decision, the city has offered a potential 12-month agreement to allow KD&S to use the old Park & Ride property in case of emergencies.
KD&S has requested that the decision be reversed by the city’s hearing examiner.
“Our client takes exception and objects to the administrative decision and specifically identifies the City staff’s determination that the current use of the parcels is not consistent with Chapter 17.20 MMC,” wrote attorney Erik Kupka, who is representing KD&S, in a Jan. 12 letter. “Our client emphatically maintains that it has operated the parcels consistent with all applicable local, state and federal laws.”