Proposed asphalt plant could become real

Lakeside Industries submitted its application to King County last week to move its Covington asphalt plant to Unincorporated Maple Valley.

In November 2017, King County Councilman Reagan Dunn was successful in placing a six month moratorium on the proposed asphalt plant in Unincorporated Maple Valley — putting a temporary stop to any progression to the application process for Lakeside Industries, an asphalt plant company based in Issaquah.

Lakeside announced last year it wanted to move its Covington asphalt plant to an industrial plot of land just off of the Maple Valley Highway across from the Cedar River.

Community members in the area have expressed concerns with the plant moving to this area because of environmental factors, traffic and noise, said Angela Flick, a concerned community member.

According to Lakeside’s president, Michael Lee, they chose this site because, “The site is zoned industrial, it’s got what we would say are all the right kind of characteristics of a good site for an asphalt plant. It’s not very close to neighbors. There are some neighbors a ways a way, but in the scheme of things it’s an industrial piece of property where neighbors are not really close.”

The moratorium that Dunn put into place has expired, so Lakeside was able to submit its application with King County Department of Planning and Environmental Review, according to a press release from Lakeside Industries.

Dunn tried to place another moratorium into effect to delay this further, but was not able to.

“I was able to successfully put a moratorium in place for six months, which is almost unprecedented, at least at my time on the council to do that,” Dunn said. “I got the support for that (and) I was prepared to do it again, to vote again. There just wasn’t the votes there on the second round, so I did everything I could. My colleagues differed on the issue and I can only do so much as one of the nine council members.”

Since the site is so close to the Cedar River, Dunn said he is disappointed about Lakeside being able to submit its application.

“I’m deeply disheartened that they decided to continue to move forward with locating the (asphalt) plant right there in an environmentally sensitive parcel, the gateway to Maple Valley and other communities to the south,” Dunn said in a phone interview.

Lee said he assures concerned citizens, all of their voices have been heard and he and the company are sure they will be able to address them all.

Lee expressed confidence when talking about the environmental factors of the asphalt plant. He said if anything, Lakeside is going to improve the land and make it much more environmentally friendly.

“If you look at this piece of property and you look how it has historically been used and you look at the condition that it’s in, we’re going to dramatically improve this piece of property from an environmental standpoint. Right now, it is contaminated with petroleum products that have been released there,” Lee said. “Some by King County in its processes in the past when they owned it and we’re going to be removing that contaminated material from the soil and replacing it with clean material.”

Aside from removing the contaminated soil, Lee said Lakeside is also going to use a “very extensive” stormwater system to filter and infiltrate excess water from the site into the ground instead of it draining it into the Cedar River. He said currently and previously, there’s been a stormwater drain that goes into the Cedar River from that site.

Flick said she and other community members have “no doubt” Lakeside will continue to say they are environmentally friendly, but said there are just some things, like air inversion, that they can’t stop their plant from emitting, which could then “drop” into the Cedar River.

Lee said Lakeside already has an air permit, which is a legal document that is designed to improve compliance by clarifying what facilities must do to control air pollutions, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The other large concern of traffic is something else Lee addressed when speaking about citizen’s concerns.

Flick said in a previous interview that she and other community members are concerned about large trucks leaving and going into the site. She said this could cause even more traffic on the highway.

According to Lee, there is no turn lane out front of the plot of land, which has caused truck traffic from previous owners of the site, including King County and the most recent owner of the land, Sunset Materials.

“We’re going to be providing a vastly improved traffic situation to help those trucks decelerate and accelerate and enter and exist the traffic pattern,” Lee said.

To do this, he said one of the first things Lakeside will do if the application passes is build an acceleration and deceleration lane that will in theory make that traffic move faster.

Lee said Lakeside has spoken to community groups numerous of times over the past year addressing these concerns and explaining to them what they are going to do about it.

He said they have met with the Greater Maple Valley Unincorporated Council, the Cedar River Council and with the Maple Valley Chamber of Commerce.

During these meetings, Lee said Lakeside has had the opportunity to answer questions and to talk about what they are doing.

“We’re very interested in getting the facts out. We believe that we’re going to have almost no environmental impacts as a result of this plant. The environmental impacts are — if any — less than car traffic, less than all sorts of other (things). We are remarkably clean and we have a great history and reputation of getting along with our neighbors and being engaged with communities and of our neighbors not having resistance or complaints about us,” Lee explained. “If we’ve ever had a complaint about things, we want to know about it so we can respond. And we have a history of if we know about those things of responding pretty well. It’s important to us to be good neighbors. It’s important to us to give back to our communities and do the right thing.”

Now that the application has been submitted it’s a waiting game for Lakeside.

As King County reviews the application, Lee said he anticipates questions from the county that Lakeside is prepared to answer in a timely manner.

After the moratorium expired, Lee said they did lose a little bit of time, but they are prepared to take on anything that is thrown at them from the county — i.e. questions, concerns, etc.

“It did put a pause in that while we certainly weren’t able to make our application the day the moratorium expired, it wasn’t as if we could get that done right then,” Lee said. “It’s comprehensive, complicated and really I think from a big picture standpoint, while we are confident that we can meet and exceed all the regulations that are put in place for facilities such as this, on a piece of property such as this, it’s up to us to prove that.”

While Lakeside is at a pause, Dunn said he hopes community members will take this time for public comment.

He said he is going to do everything he can to make sure the public has an opportunity to weigh in on Lakeside’s application.

”The most important thing is that the public have a right to comment. The DEPR (Department of Environmental Review), which is under Dow Constantine will be the one (determining) if the application criteria is met. If they’re not (met), they can deny or delay, but if they are (met), typically they’ll move forward. But public comment matters a lot, so that’s important,” Dunn explained.

He said there is nothing left for him to do from a legislative perspective, but he hopes that those who live around the site will be able to pursue the courts.

Flick said she and other community members have already started preparing for the upcoming public comment period, which will start in three weeks.

“It has been one full year now since all of this started for us so we have had time to strengthen our reasons for this being a bad location for this plant,” Flick said.

She said community members are still fundraising for legal defense. She also said they have almost 5,200 signatures on their online petition opposing the plant.

Lee explained it is still unknown as to how long it will take King County to make its decision, but he estimates that if the application is approved, Lakeside will take its next steps in building the plant sometime in 2019.