More than a year after initial complaints were received regarding a large debris pile at a planned subdivision in Winlock, the matter remains unresolved, though county officials state they are granting a little more time before pursuing further action.
Located on SR 505 near the intersection with Kakela Rd., Grand Prairie Mountain View Estates (GPMVE), a 200-home subdivision left largely-uncompleted amid foreclosure and changes in ownership, has been the subject of multiple complaints since January of last year regarding a large debris pile on the southern end of the property.
The debris, made of the remains of an old house once located at the site of Benaroya's planned industrial park along I-5, had been removed by GPMVE owner Phil Smith after Benaroya contracted with Smith for such services. He has reportedly told city staff in Winlock his intention was to let the debris dry out where it currently sits to reduce its weight before taking it to the dump, but the debris has been allowed to linger.
Smith was subsequently cited twice by the Lewis County Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) in June, 2014, for violation of county nuisance ordinances, while the City of Winlock also issued a stop work order that September because of the violation, preventing further progress on the development.
Though Smith initially contested his citations in Lewis County District Court and had sought two continuances in the matter, first in September and then in November, he changed his plea to "committed" on Jan. 6, according to District Court, and agreed to remove the debris and pay $514 in fines.
Though Smith was given a deadline of Feb. 6 to pay the fines, District Court reports Smith has yet to pay any part of his obligation, while DHSS is still waiting to see the debris pile disposed of.
"I've told him I just want to see it taken care of responsibly," said Lewis County Code Compliance Officer Bill Teitzel of his conversations with Smith, stating he would like the property owner to resolve the matter on his own initiative, but is prepared to seek further legal action if the violation continues.
Teitzel did not indicate a specific timeline by which he would expect to seek further remedies, but did state Smith does not have long before the county steps in, again.
Winlock Mayor Lonnie J. Dowell, whose city also has jurisdiction in the matter, has indicated Winlock is not prepared at this time to cite Smith or seek other legal action, as Winlock's retainer with City Attorney Erin Hillier does not pay specifically for such services, and Dowell would like to see if the county can find a resolution in Winlock's place.
If the county is unable to do so, he added, Winlock would reserve the right to seek remedies up to and including abatement, at which time Winlock would take possession of the subdivision and clean up the nuisance, then sell the property to recover their costs.
Attempts by this newspaper to contact Smith for comment prior to deadline were unsuccessful.