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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
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."