County sues over construction that violated ‘stop’ order

MALTBY — Snohomish County has taken the unusual step of suing to stop work at the site of a planned truck factory where code officials say construction crews did extensive work without permits — and continued after being warned to knock it off.

By the time code officials issued a stop-work order on Aug. 15, the 10-acre site along Broadway Avenue in Maltby was abuzz with heavy equipment and mostly cleared. Neighbors said work had been ongoing for weeks.

The day after ordering crews to stop, code inspectors returned to find them at it again, the county’s lawsuit claims. It wasn’t until code officials paid a visit for a third consecutive day that they were able to shut down the equipment.

“Given the scope and significance of the land disturbance, we believed the circumstances warranted more immediate relief and a court filing to effect that,” said Josh Dugan, a manager in the county’s planning department.

County attorneys filed the complaint Friday in Snohomish County Superior Court. The legal action seeks to enforce action on code violations and to impose relevant fines.

The project known as North Woodinville Industrial Park is the latest regulatory issue to rankle neighbors in Maltby, an unincorporated part of south Snohomish County where abrupt transitions between homes and industrial businesses often have made for an uneasy coexistence.

The industrial park calls for a 105,000-square foot warehouse and offices at 20812 Broadway Ave., where the road joins Yew Way. OSW Equipment &Repair, a company that builds dump trucks and other industrial equipment, plans to move into the space once it’s finished. OSW has a majority stake in the company that owns the construction site on Broadway and operates from a nearby facility, according to court papers.

Once finished, about 130 people are projected to work at OSW’s new facility. The county on July 24 determined that the project was unlikely to have any significant impacts on the environment. That decision, however, is not a green light to start work. That needs to come in the form of grading, building and other permits.

The site earlier this week was a landscape of freshly turned and flattened dirt, but no large machines. Several partially buried concrete risers poked a few feet above ground.

The county lawsuit names OSW; property owner TEC Holdings 80, an LLC formed in Snohomish earlier this year; and Hos Brothers Construction of Woodinville.

OSW President Jay DeNoma declined to comment when reached Monday and abruptly ended a telephone call with a reporter. Officials from Hos Brothers did not respond to calls or an email seeking comment.

Court papers describe the steps county officials took after a neighbor complained about the work.

DeNoma told a county code-enforcement officer Aug. 15, “that he had hired Hos Bros. Construction to perform the grading activity on the property and readily acknowledged that they were proceeding with work without issued permits,” the lawsuit says. The officer told DeNoma he was issuing a stop-work order.

The next day, the code official returned and “observed extensive filling and grading activity continuing to occur on the property unabated in violation of the stop-work order.” The day after that, Dugan, who oversees code enforcement, went out and saw the ongoing work himself.

Dugan told a Hos Bros. foreman to stop immediately. The stop-work order posted earlier in the week had been removed. An estimated eight acres of unpermitted grading work had occurred, the court complaint says.

The penalty for violating a stop-work order is $500 for the first offense, $1,000 for the second and $1,500 each time after that. Often, the county will waive the penalty if problems get fixed.

“As always, the goal is compliance,” Dugan said. “In this case, the project proponent has applied for appropriate permits but those permits have not been approved.”

Neighbors are watching what happens next.

William Jaques, president of the Maltby Neighborhood Alliance, has been fighting to improve zoning and enforcement in his area for more than a dozen years.

“We’re not against the commercial development, we just want them to do it legally,” Jaques said. “The county is not on top of it. It’s all run by a complaint system. If nobody writes a complaint, they can do whatever they want.”

Jeff Salisbury said he filed a complaint about the grading activity on Broadway last week. A retiree who has lived in the area for more than 30 years, Salisbury said he was particularly annoyed given his background in mechanical construction, including building oil pipelines. He was disappointed that it took a complaint from the outside to get the enforcement ball rolling, but he’s pleased with the county’s response, so far.

“Once I filed the complaint, I had a call within three hours that they were sending someone out immediately,” Salisbury said.

Both neighbors questioned whether there’s a staffing issue when it comes to code enforcement, since there are only four officers responsible for monitoring all of unincorporated Snohomish County.

The county’s court motion is scheduled for a hearing next week. Also next week, the county hearing examiner is set to consider the project’s site plan, a step that was scheduled before code-enforcement issues came to light.

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