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Smith granted continuance as nuisance violation lingers

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A large debris pile at Grand Prairie Mountain View Estates, a Winlock subdivision owned by developer Phil Smith, which has been the subject of nuisance complaints against Smith and could adversely affect his chances at receiving a plat extension from the Winlock City Council, which they are expected to have considered during their Sept. 22 meeting.

Chehalis real estate developer Phil Smith may be unlikely to receive a plat extension from the Winlock City Council in light of a still-unresolved nuisance complaint regarding his planned subdivision, Grand Prairie Mountain View Estates.

The property in question, located east of Downtown Winlock, was purchased by Smith in February of last year after previous developers had attempted since 2005 to build as many as 200 homes on the five-acre parcel, only to have their creditor, Venture Bank, foreclose on them in 2009.

After acquiring the property, which county tax records indicate was sold for $565,000, Smith was granted an extension of the plat attached to the project by the Winlock City Council in March, 2013, allowing him to continue building until Sept. 26 of this year, at which time the project would need to be completed or a new extension granted.

Only phase one of five is finished at this time, according to city records, and Smith approached the council Sept. 8 asking for an extension, but was told by officials they did not feel comfortable granting his request in light of, among other issues, an outstanding nuisance complaint filed by Lewis County, which Smith is in the process of challenging in court.

The complaint stems from a large pile of debris located on the southern end of the property next to a row of hills and trees obscuring its view from the north. The debris, which appears to stretch for hundreds of feet, is from the remains of a residence originally located on land owned by Benaroya along I-5, which the company hired Smith to remove in November, according Winlock City Attorney Erin Hillier.

A citizen complaint against Smith regarding the debris pile was filed with Winlock on Jan. 13 and a letter from City Hall informing Smith of the complaint was sent Jan. 22, followed by a formal notice on March 31 from the Lewis County Department of Health and Social Services giving Smith 30 days to remove the debris from his property and provide a copy of a receipt proving it was disposed of at a permitted facility.

Smith failed to comply with these terms and, on June 11 and 18, was given two separate citations of $257 each for the continued violation, which Smith has opted to formally challenge through a contested hearing.

Though a hearing had been scheduled for Sept. 17 in Lewis County District Court, Smith asked Judge R.W. Buzzard for a continuance, stating he expected to be unavailable due to medical concerns, citing previous treatments for a brain tumor. With consent from the prosecutor, Buzzard granted Smith a 60-day set-over.

With the matter of the nuisance violation still pending, it appears unlikely Smith will be granted an extension before his current plat expires, with Mayor Lonnie J. Dowell stating Winlock has been exploring its legal options to confirm denial of an extension would be in the city's best interests, with the council again expected to have considered Smith's request during their Sept. 22 meeting.

Dowell stated, if the current plat expires, Smith would have to re-file for a new plat and submit site plans, a SEPA study and receive approval from the Planning Commission, while incurring all the fees and time necessary to do so. He added, even if a plat extension is granted, a Stop Work Order still remains in place as of Sept. 8 due to the unresolved nuisance complaint.

When asked after the appear in court what his plans would be if a plat extension was not granted, Smith said he had no comment. When also asked about the status of $232,000 in outstanding fines to the US Department of Ecology for an unrelated land use violation occurring near Winlock in 2007, which involved the backfilling of salmon-bearing wetlands, Smith said he had no comment.

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