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Friends of Rocky Prairie

Site Background Information

Dyno Nobel (Owned from mid-1980’s to 1993.)

The Site was part of a 1625-acre site that was owned by Dyno Nobel, an explosive manufacturer and sold to Citifor Inc. in 1993. In anticipation of the sale of the site to Citifor, an environmental investigation and clean up of approximately 29 acres of the site was begun by Dyno Nobel who identified certain areas as potentially contaminated. Dyno Nobel clean-up activities continued into1995 and involved the excavation and removal of contaminated soils from several areas. For more information on the cleanup and background, go to the Department of Ecology link below: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/tcp/sites/citifor/citifor_3-6-06.pdf

 

Citifor Inc. (Owned 1993-2006)

During the ownership of the property by Citifor, a number of proposals were considered, including a gravel-mining quarry, cement recycling center, construction of large warehousing facilities, and a residential development with golf course. The development of a quarry became a rallying point for local citizens concerned about the sensitive groundwater, wetlands and prairie areas. Pursuant to the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), Thurston County was designated as the lead agency for review of environmental impacts resulting from the proposed development. On October 24, 2005, the County reviewed the project and issued a Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance (MDNS) that contained 32 conditions to be met before the quarry plans could proceed.

The 32 conditions of the Approval of the required mitigation included the following:
Compliance for roads and traffic safety standards; protection of the aquifer through a groundwater protection monitoring plan; recording of the final delineated critical area maps with the County Auditor; compliance with BHAS (the Black Hills chapter of the Audubon Society) settlement agreement; protection of Wetlands A, B, C-2002 and D-2002; exclusion of the four oak woodlands stands from the area of development; protection of critical habitat on the Applicant’s overall ownership, including the native outwash prairie and habitats of the Oregon spotted frog, the Coho salmon, the aquatic plant Howellia, and the Olympic mud minnow among others; control of noise levels; compliance with the ongoing RI/FS (Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study) being conducted on the site regarding the clean-up of contaminates left by the previous explosives manufacturing operations on site; control of lighting; compliance with stormwater and erosion control regulations; compliance with air pollution regulations; archeological survey; and certification of clean-fill.

Exhibit 1, Attachment e, from the MDNS: County staff recommended that the MDNS conditions of approval also be made conditions of permit approval, and noted that all conditions “run with the land” and would be binding on the applicant and any future owner or operator of quarry development.

Black Hills Audubon Society (BHAS) and the Applicant for the quarry entered into the settlement agreement, which created a conservation fund to be used by the involved Conservation Organizations for enhancement, monitoring and restoration of habitat within the project site or watershed. The fund would allow the Conservation Organizations to address adverse impacts that might arise whether or not they resulted from the proposed mining. But, whether the fund transferred when the Port purchased the property is currently in question.

The organizations and agencies involved were Capital Land Trust, Nature Conservancy, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources, and the Black Hills Audubon Society, which was the lead agency in the mitigation settlement.

Warehousing:

In the beginning of 2006, Citifor, the owner of the site, was considering erecting a (high) cube-style warehousing facility and had applied for two variances – one for height, and one for a permit variance for locating the facility 2.5miles from I-5 rather than the mile required by current zoning. Thurston County was intending to issue the distance variance without SEPA review.

 

IN A LETTER WRITTEN on behalf of the Black Hills Audubon Society by a local law firm dated May 17, 2006, the representing attorney wrote:

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing on behalf of Sue Danver and the Black Hills Audubon Society, who have told me that Allen and Company or Maytown Aggregates is proposing to locate a warehousing use in a Rural Resource Industrial (RRI) district near Maytown. According to Thurston County Code 20.29.020 (5), warehouses are allowed in this district only if located within one-half mile of the Interstate 5 interchange. Because the location of this proposal is outside this half-mile area, a variance from this restriction has been requested. I am advised that the county staff has deemed this variance to be categorically exempt under SEPA and is allowing the variance to proceed without SEPA review.

The only possible exemption that could apply to this variance is that found in the WAC 197-11-800 (6) b, which exempts variances:
“Based on special circumstances, not including economic hardship, applicable to the subject property, such as size, shape, topography, location or surroundings and not resulting in any change in land use or density.”

For a number of reasons, this proposal does not fall within this exemption. First, we are not aware of any physical circumstances of the type listed in WAC 197-11-800 (6) b which are applicable to this property. Such physical circumstances are part of the requirements which a variance must meet on the merits under TCC 20.52.020. Thus, if there is any question at this stage whether such circumstances are present, the broad purposes of SEPA demand that a threshold determination be carried out to fully illuminate the environmental impacts of the variance. As noted, there is substantial uncertainty whether such circumstances are present. Therefore, the variance should not be deemed exempt.

More importantly, this variance is a use variance, not a dimensional variance. Without the variance, warehouses are prohibited at this location in the RRI district. With it, the warehouse would be permitted at this location. Thus the variance cannot meet the requirement of WAC 197-11-800 (6) b, that it not result in any change in land use. With that, it is not exempt from SEPA and must at least go though threshold determination. We ask the County to follow these legal obligations.

End of letter

As a result of the sale of the property, the variance applications were dropped.

Fish and Wildlife:

In the summer of 2005, an 809.42-acre section of the original 1625-acre property was approved for and eventually purchased for $2 million dollars by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. WDFW originally attempted to purchase the entire property, but due to financial constraints only obtained this portion of it. The 1625-acre site contains at least five state endangered and state sensitive species, as well as native outwash prairie, oak woodlands and riparian area.

 

The remaining portion of the site was purchased by the Port of Tacoma for development, in the summer of 2006 for $21 million, as a result of an Interlocal Agreement with the Port of Olympia.


In April 2010, the Port of Tacoma sold the property to a southern California developer who formed a company called Maytown Sand & Gravel.  They attempted to mine the site, but after about a year they defaulted on their payments to the Port of Tacoma and went out of business.


Currently, the Port of Tacoma is attempting to sell the property to NorthPoint Development Company, presumably for another attempt at a logistics center on this site.

 


Friends of Rocky Prairie

Contact us by email:  friendsofrockyprairie@gmail.com

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