Monroe project meets permits, owner says

MONROE — Dave Remlinger said he’s starting to feel harassed by questions about where he’s getting the dirt to fill in a large area along U.S. 2.

Inspectors from Snohomish County and the Snohomish Health District have paid visits to the site to follow up on public concerns about what may be going into the ground.

Inspectors have found no violations, though they did take the opportunity to remind Remlinger about state regulations.

The attention is starting to make Remlinger bristle.

“There are a lot of people out there who want to continually harass, but the fact of the matter is all of our permits are in order,” Remlinger said. “Everything in our site’s clean. There’s never been a question.”

His lawyer has written health inspectors, warning they aren’t welcome on the property without permission.

During an interview, Remlinger said he would try to subpoena a reporter’s notes to learn who may be asking questions. That’s something he can’t do without a judge’s permission.

The Snohomish Valley entrepreneur is filling in 26 acres in the flood plain so that he can eventually build agriculture-related retail businesses along the highway. That might include nurseries and a farmers market.

Remlinger, an appointed member of the Snohomish County Agricultural Advisory Board, operates several local agriculture-related businesses. He also serves as a commissioner with the French Slough Flood Control District. A state audit released earlier this year faulted Remlinger and another commissioner for awarding contracts to businesses they partially own, a rule of which the commissioners said they had no knowledge.

For now, Remlinger is in the process of accepting tens of thousands of dump-truck loads at his land, on the former site of the Diamond M Farm. The dumping likely will last a couple of years.

Remlinger last week said he’s keeping track of fill going into the site. The dirt has come mostly from construction projects, he said, including work on municipal roadways.

If the project goes as planned, the fill would allow Remlinger to build structures on ground that will rise above the 100-year flood level.

Remlinger has Snohomish County permits for his project, which would include about 600,000 cubic yards of fill — about 50,000 dump trucks. He legally combined grading rights on land parcels covering more than 1,300 acres to be allowed to fill in the equivalent of 2 percent of the land.

The state Department of Transportation approved the dump truck traffic. The state still would have to approve additional traffic plans before any commercial buildings can go up along the highway.

State regulations allow Remlinger to accept small amounts of asphalt and concrete in the fill. If there’s too much of those materials, he would have to get a Health District permit to operate an inert waste landfill.

Concerns about concrete and asphalt in the fill were the subject of a public complaint the district received in August.

After a district inspector stopped by to investigate, Remlinger’s attorney, Peter Ojala of Everett, sent a sternly worded email, warning Health District workers not to enter his client’s property. The lawyer also demanded that all communication from the Health District go through him.

“I would be curious to know whether or not you followed the trucks to the location of where the dirt was coming from or tried to do that, rather than getting in the way of the trucks turning around on the property of my client,” part of the message reads.

In October, an environmental health specialist with the Health District followed up by sending a letter advising Remlinger that he appeared to be “near or above” his limit for the amount of asphalt and concrete at the site.

This past week, the same specialist, Mike Young, visited the site to speak with Remlinger on state rules for fill and to confirm that Remlinger is collecting written assurances about the dirt from his suppliers.

“It shows they’re doing some screening,” Young said, “which is much better than nothing.”

The visit, and the documents Remlinger is keeping, led Young to close as unfounded another complaint he received this month about a truck depositing watery soil at the Diamond M site. Young said the documents indicated that the material is from a utility project along Highway 522 and involved clean soil.

County permit files include a recommendation “that all suppliers of off-site sources of fill provide (a) written, notarized certification letter” that the dirt they’re trucking in is not contaminated with hazardous or toxic materials.

Separately, the county planning department has sent inspectors to the site and advised Remlinger to start sorting out large pieces of wood, concrete and other debris from the fill so that material can be taken elsewhere.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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