Is the GMA Harming Rural, Unincorporated King County?

Asphalt Plant Near Renton?

It has been said that the first (and perhaps the last) question of philosophy is, “What is the good?”  With respect to shaping and managing growth in Washington, that question was supposed to be addressed by a model designed to make sure laws and regulations are in place so that competing considerations are addressed fairly and consistently.  That model consists of the Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) as the top-level guidance, followed by a county comprehensive plan for a regional focus, followed by zoning for specific uses within a county, and completed by the permitting process.  That model is again in danger of failing the residents of unincorporated King County.

Late in 2017, Lakeside Industries submitted a proposal to build a hot mix asphalt plant at a gravel yard formerly owned by Sunset Materials near Maple Valley Heights, between Renton and Maple Valley on State Route 169 (18825 Renton-Maple Valley highway) at the site of the old King Co. garages.  Residents protested the construction and the King County Council established a six-month moratorium on considering the permit, which has since expired.  Now, the King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER) will soon be reviewing the permit application.  The crux of the matter, the violation of our property rights, stems from this: there is no way that anyone considering moving into Maple Valley Heights or the surrounding neighborhoods would ever suspect that an asphalt plant that includes a form of petroleum processing would be built several hundred feet from their houses.  If built, this plant will destroy our enjoyment of our rural property and its value.  This isn’t just another case of NIMBY-ism.  It’s a case of cleverly skirting the law and making residential property owners pay for it.

Amendments made in 2008 to the King County Comprehensive Plan Policy R-513 expressly prohibit the construction of the plant.  Among those amendments were accommodations for Sunset Materials’ existing uses; new industrial uses beyond that were not permitted.  Now that prohibition is being violated by a curious exception to the zoning code that allows an asphalt plant but not a “regular” petroleum processing plant.   The fact that this industrial use is opposed by both Water District 90 and the City of Renton speaks volumes. 

Will this issue be resolved through to GMA process, and legitimate concerns accounted for?  Citizen input should be a part of the GMA process, property rights is listed in the GMA as an equal and important consideration that often is placed at a lower value than that of all other considerations.  While both parties in this plan have existing property rights, co-operation between neighbors is one way the GMA can work.  Negotiations require the active and open involvement of elected representatives in King County.  Without the transparent involvement of the County elected officials, motives are questioned, trust is broken, and equitable solutions for property owners in this issue become unattainable.  The GMA is not a tool to hammer citizens with, if given proper attention and application it can work for the balanced good it is claimed to espouse.  It is just a lot more work for King County to do things that way, but do it they must, it is far past time for an honest approach to management through the GMA.  

To date, our requests for help from the King County Council have be met mostly with indifference.  We have hired outside counsel to represent us and are happy with the firm’s advice.  We ask for any support that you can provide, be it political, logistical, or financial.  While we have an extensive corps of volunteers, legal review of the permitting process has been and will be expensive and your donations are greatly appreciated.

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Thank you!

Citizens to STOP SR169 Asphalt Plant

September 2, 2018