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Smith encountering plat troubles with Winlock subdivision

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The Winlock City County has tabled a request for a plat extension filed by Chehalis developer Phil Smith amid concerns Smith has not met expectations regarding requests for timetables, nor resolved an outstanding nuisance complaint.

Smith, who purchased Grand Prairie Mountain View Estates, a subdivision on SR 505 east of town, in February of last year approached the council during their Sept. 8 meeting asking for an extension of the plat attached to the project, which had originally been issued in 2005 and was renewed by the council in 2013. Under the current plat, Smith has until Sept. 26 of this year to receive an extension or finish the project and Smith told the council, while efforts have been under way to complete the 200-home neighborhood, progress remains slow given lingering economic challenges.

"It's been a grind, but we've done a lot of things with that property to get it cleaned up and looking better," he said of himself and fellow developers involved in the project. "We're excited and moving forward."

Smith said, as he is attempting to raise capital investments, he is reaching out for community support, and in that vein had sought and received a resolution from the council one year ago supporting the development as a potential boon to the city.

But officials were more skeptical this time as they said they felt a few unresolved issues ought to be addressed before granting another extension.

Mayor Lonnie J. Dowell said, according to documentation provided by the City Attorney's office, Smith had been asked last October to submit a timetable detailing when specific elements of phase one were to be completed and, though Dowell observed the bulk of this phase appears to be done, the city still has not received the information they requested from Smith.

"To my knowledge, we still don't have a timetable for the completion of phase one," he said, adding he will be speaking with City Planner Steve Ashley to clarify what was detailed in the original agreement.

Dowell also pointed out the project has been stalled by a county nuisance complaint regarding a debris pile on the southern end of the five-acre property, preventing any work until the issue is resolved, even if a plat extension is granted. Dowell later noted Smith is scheduled to appear at a hearing regarding the complaint this Wednesday morning in Lewis County District Court.

Between these factors, as well as an uncertainty that all necessary information had been presented, council members voted to table the request until their next meeting, with the intent of gathering more information from Smith and further researching his obligations to the city. Dowell said, if the council fails to renew the plat during their next meeting on Sept. 22, Smith's current permit will likely expire and he will need to re-file for a new plat.

Smith offered no defense regarding his lack of complying with city expectations except to comment on incomplete sections of sidewalk within the subdivision and note they would not be necessary to begin constructing, or even selling, a house. He also stated, if the council chooses to promptly renew the plat, it will mean more fees related to construction and sales being contributed to city funds.

Smith has previously found himself at odds with developmental regulations after being fined $250,000 in 2011 by the US Department of Ecology related to the un-permitted backfilling of wetland property on a local parcel slated to become a publicly-funded horse arena, with the project being abandoned shortly after Smith's actions. As of last year, Smith had paid only $18,000 of the fine and the remainder was sent to collections, according to official reports.

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