|Copyright The McClatchy Company Aug 29,
Fife Sand & Gravel
A permit dispute between Edgewood and Fife
Sand & Gravel Co. is part of a wider conflict involving
the young city and the company, which has been around 38 years
longer than Edgewood.
It also illustrates what can happen when a
growing suburban city butts up against a loud and dirty - but
perfectly legal - business that sits on prime real estate.
Edgewood, incorporated in 1996, has targeted
the company's permitted gravel mine and industrial recycling
areas for residential uses. The City Council did it to help
meet state growth management rules.
Fife Sand & Gravel, however, feels like
it's between a rock and a hard place.
It has a 1979 surface mining permit that
expires next year, and will need to apply to the city to renew
"We have a huge amount of uncertainty," said
Mike Kelley, Jr., a co-owner.
At the heart of the dispute are complaints by
some residents about noise and dust and their views of the
Puyallup Valley being disturbed - and the company's difficulty
in trying to resolve all these problems at once.
The conflict involves three suburban leaders:
Fife Sand & Gravel Co. owners Mike Kelley, Sr., who is the
mayor of Fife, and Mike Kelley Jr., a former member of the
Edgewood City Council; and John Powers, an Edgewood city
councilman and former mayor. Powers is among six or seven
neighbors who have concerns about dust and noise from company
Fife Sand & Gravel employs about 20
people and maintains a 110- acre surface mining operation. But
two-thirds of its business these days is in the recycling of
petroleum-contaminated soil, waste lumber, used concrete and
asphalt, said Mike Kelley Jr.
Edgewood doesn't want to put the company out
of business, said Mayor Bill Evans. But the city can regulate
the industrial recycling operation, especially in response to
complaints about dust and noise, he said.
On Wednesday, the company won its appeal of a
related permit that Edgewood had revoked. The city hearing
examiner's decision allows the company to build a berm with a
fence on top to better shield neighbors from noise and dust.
The berm also protects company operations against possible
stormwater overflow from the neighborhood up the hill, said
Mike Kelley Sr.
The city initially granted the permit two
years ago and then revoked it later after neighbors complained
about the berm and fence and the lack of notice.
A handful of homeowners overlooking the pit
and the scenic Puyallup Valley oppose the 10-foot-high
structure. Joe Smith, one neighbor, has told authorities that
the noise doesn't bother him, but said he's concerned about
losing property value if the berm and fence obstruct his
Councilman Powers, who has lived for 19 years
in a home overlooking the pit, said the industrial recycling
machinery should be enclosed in structures. He said he deals
with noise and dust from company operations at times, but he's
willing to make concessions to protect his view.
"I'm their neighbor and I expected to be
treated like their neighbor," he said.
The city has no view protection
The company said city regulations don't allow
the size of building needed to enclose recycling machinery.
City officials said the company hasn't applied for a building
Mike Kelley Jr., said the company has moved
some recycling equipment and keeps noise below the highest
allowed decibel levels. But trespassers have cut
noise-buffering trees on company property over the years,
apparently to improve their views. So the company plans to
complete the berm and fence as a replacement buffer.
Edgewood officials say they've received noise
and dust complaints about Fife Sand & Gravel operations,
but not many. The company said the complaints began after berm
and fence project started about two years ago. Edgewood
stopped the construction, but now the company has a hearing
examiner's approval to finish the job.
Despite the ongoing dispute, the city and the
company have agreed to talk about some sort of development
agreement that might help resolve some of the issues, both
- - -
Rob Tucker: 253-597-8374
Credit: The News