Number of complaints

Everett hotline makes permit violations fast, easy to report

By KATE REARDON

Herald Writer

EVERETT — Wayne Jensen thought it was strange when a construction crew recently started clearing trees and brush from a steep soggy slope near his home in Lowell.

He was confident the crew didn’t have permits to do the work, but he wasn’t sure who to complain to as city offices were closed for the weekend.

Following Jensen’s experience, the city hopes to make people more aware of a 24-hour phone number for such complaints.

Calling that number could have made a big difference in this case.

Jensen was right. The city never issued permits for work done by Creasey Bulldozing in Monroe on land owned by Dream Starter Homes of Kirkland.

The city has yet to issue fines, but expects to do so Monday, said Jim Isles, assistant city attorney.

City officials have said they will require the owner to restore the wetland destroyed during the clearing. The property owner can contest or explain the violations to the city’s hearing examiner.

It’s not likely that violations will be issued to Creasey because it’s not the property owner, Isles said.

Officials from Creasey and Dream Starter Homes did not return repeated telephone calls from The Herald.

Dream Starter Homes also is building six fourplexes in Monroe called Arbor Heights and completed another housing complex called Lords Lake.

Laird Gunn lives across the street from the property that was cleared in Lowell. He said he was suspicious when trucks woke him up before 7 a.m. that Saturday.

"I heard some loud trucks, and it’s usually pretty peaceful and quiet around here," he said. "I didn’t know what to do at that point. I went out there and asked them if they had any permits and they said of course they had permits. I asked if they were aware of the pond in the middle of the property and asked about the eagle that used to perch on one of the trees."

When Jensen called information, operators mistakenly led him to city officials in Marysville and Mukilteo, but not Everett. Finally someone suggested calling 911.

To Jensen’s disappointment, he was later told there was nothing that could be done during the weekend.

Meanwhile, for the next two days, he and neighbors watched crews install a French drain, build two crushed rock driveways and clear a wetland on 1.3 acres in the 5100 block of S. Fourth Street.

Jensen said he was pleased with the response once the city learned of the concern. The city posted a stop-work order there shortly after the complaint. Later, to control erosion, grass seed and hay were spread on the site.

"The city didn’t really learn about the issue until (that) Monday," said Larry Crawford, director of engineering for the city. "It’s unfortunate because if the call would have been made to the 24-hour number, we would have had someone there in about 20 minutes."

The city is working to market the emergency utility number. Marketing may include stuffing a flier with the phone number into utility bills mailed to city residents, Crawford said.

However, the 24-hour number is listed in the phone book and people do use it, Crawford said.

Jensen said he is worried about the rainy season because he and neighbors live downhill from the property that was cleared.

"That’s a very real issue," Crawford said, adding that measures have been taken to help control water draining from the site.

Dream Starter Homes will likely be cited for violating two city codes: clearing property without a permit and destroying a wetland.

"I have no doubt the guy knew he shouldn’t be doing it," Crawford said. "I think he’s bitten off a whole lot more than he intended. He might have been a little naive, too, in the way Everett approaches these types of activities."

Crawford said basic clearing permits for work in the city can cost a minimum of $50 or so, but it’s not likely the city would have issued permits for the land without a wetlands study and other review.

"In this day and age, with the general knowledge and general sensitivity to environmental features, anybody’s who’s involved in the construction industry should know better," Crawford said.

Gunn said the crews worked until about 8:30 that Sunday night.

"I don’t have a problem when someone buys property and wants to build there, but they better follow the laws and environmental regulations," Gunn said.

Clearing land without permits or destroying wetlands in unincorporated Snohomish County can lead to a six-year moratorium banning the owner from doing anything with the property, said John Roney, special projects coordinator with the county’s planning and development services.

Roney said people should call if they are not sure if they need a permit to do work.

Historically, the Everett site was that of the Silver Springs Water Association well that supplied water to the Lowell area.

Also, the city still awaits results from water samples taken at the site after neighbors spotted an oily sheen on top of pooling water.

"We’re pretty much convinced there isn’t any contaminated material out there," Crawford said. "The sheen (seems) to be bacteria common in wet areas. We should know in a day or so."

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