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Smith receives plat extensions as Winlock prepares to cite violation

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The Winlock City Council has granted a one-year plat extension to developer Phil Smith despite concerns about a large debris pile on Smith's property, with the city's legal counsel stating one has no basis to affect the other.

Approved during the council's Sept. 22 meeting, officials unanimously supported a resolution granting the extension after City Attorney Erin Hillier explained, though the council has expressed concerns about ongoing nuisance violations on Smith's proposed subdivision, Grand Prairie Mountain View Estates, these violations do not affect his right to ask for a plat extension and do not provide grounds for the council to deny him.

"Plat approval has its own standards," she said, stating Smith has, so far, met these standards and a pending nuisance complaint "really has nothing to do with plat approval."

She added the resolution passed by the council was not an endorsement of Smith or his plans for development but rather an acknowledgement that state law allows for extensions of a plat by up to 10 years, adding Smith's request remains within those guidelines.

Officials had previously been asked by Smith to extend the plat during their Sept. 8 meeting, but tabled the issue because they wished to learn more about their obligations in light of multiple concerns including a large debris pile at the subdivision, for which Smith has been cited by the Lewis Department of Health and Social Services, a violation he is currently contesting in court. The debris had reportedly been at the property since last November when Smith was hired by development company Benaroya to remove the remains of a residence from their industrial property along I-5.

Mayor Lonnie J. Dowell stated after the meeting Smith has communicated to him since June he is waiting to refinance his property in order to afford removal of the debris, but said his office feels Smith has ignored too many opportunities to correct the situation and Winlock is prepared to begin citing Smith for the violation.

"We're moving forward with the legal process," he said, stating action against Smith will likely be taken in the coming days. "We feel we have given him ample time."

Winlock had previously issued a Stop Work Order on Sept. 8 due to the ongoing violation, preventing Smith from proceeding with phases two through five of his development until the debris pile is removed. Dowell has also indicated Winlock would be entitled to remove the debris on their own and seek reimbursement from Smith, which could include, according to ordinance, liens on his properties or the abatement of the subdivision, which would then be sold at auction to recover the city's costs.

Smith now has until September of next year to complete the subdivision or seek another plat extension. When asked if he has a timeline in mind of when the project may be complete, Smith said he was uncertain and would first "need to find somebody who wants to buy some houses."

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