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Neighborhood group finds Grouse Ridge gaffe

NORTH BEND — Adding to the controversy of the proposed

North Bend Gravel Operation on Grouse Ridge, information found on the

King County Department of Development and Environmental Services' Web

site about a portion of the land to be mined suggested that the land actually

belonged to King County.

Instead, officials said the property belongs to Weyerhaeuser.

"It is, was, has been and still currently is Weyerhaeuser

timberlands," said Steven Ketz, forest land use

manager for Weyerhaeuser. "But it looked like Cadman was applying to

mine King County's property, if you looked at the Web site."

If the county owned the land, it would raise ethical questions.

Because the county is responsible for approving development proposals, it

could, in effect, approve a project for which it would receive royalties from the

sale of gravel products.

The error in parcel misidentification was spotted by

members of the Cascade Gateway Foundation, a neighborhood

organization that opposes the gravel pit's

approval, on the DDES Web site a few months ago.

A DDES official said the department's Web site displays

information gathered by another county department, and it does not have

any hand in facilitating changes to tax parcels.

"DDES takes the data concerning property in King County directly

from the King County Assessor's Office," explained Paula Adams, DDES

communications director.

As recently as September, the Web site clearly named King County as

the owner of land where part of the gravel pit would be located. Upon seeing

that, Cascade members decided to investigate.

When Ketz found out about the error, he sought answers. After

many phone calls to county agencies, he said the error was the result of

paperwork not getting from one county agency to another.

"It turned out that the county assessor's office had not received

all of the deeds from the county auditor's office," he explained. "I don't

know why that happened."

The mistake occurred after Weyerhaeuser sold a number

of Grouse Ridge parcels to King County two years ago, but the parcel in

question was not included, Ketz said.

The Valley Record made repeated calls to the county auditor's

office, assessor's office and the Department of Elections and Records, but no

one was able to confirm whether the county had erred and when the

information on the Web site had been corrected.

Although the land mishap was declared a case of mistaken

identity, Cascade Gateway members, and other neighbors, still question the incident.

"I can't believe people as sophisticated in real estate as those

at Weyerhaeuser and all the professionals at King County could be this

inept," said Jeff Martine, Cascade Gateway president.

They also wrote a letter to King County Executive Ron Sims,

asking for clarification.

His response letter, dated July 21, 2000, reports that the error was

found and the necessary corrections were made.

"King County does not, in fact, own the land under the

proposed Cadman mining and processing operation," it reads.

But that's not the only property mistake that affected the gravel

operation site — a second error occurred when two other parcels of

Grouse Ridge land were incorrectly written, causing the property to appear to

belong to the wrong party on the Web site.

One parcel that belongs to King County was incorrectly displayed

as Weyerhaeuser property, and the other showed the county as the owner,

instead of Weyerhaeuser.

Martine said he and other Cascade Gateway members are still

uneasy with such errors surrounding the proposed gravel pit, but Ketz said it's

just a matter of coincidence.

"(They were) two unfortunate scrivener's errors that

unfortunately took place at the same time as the

other errors," Ketz said.

He added that Weyerhaeuser's Land Title office, where the second

error occurred, has made very few mistakes in several decades.

Both the DDES Web site and the property deeds have been altered

to show correct ownership, Ketz said, adding that the confusion should

now be cleared up.

"In a way it shows that the system is working because (neighbors)

found the mistake," Ketz said. "As much

as we all try not to make mistakes, sometimes they do happen."

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