Official neighborhood group will seek to address issues in East Fork community, including quarry concerns
BATTLE GROUND — North County neighbors living in the community surrounding the East Fork of the Lewis River officially formed the East Fork Alliance Neighborhood Association (EFANA) on Monday night at the Battle Ground Community Library.
This was the third meeting to discuss the formation of the group, introduce potential bylaws and elect officers; all county requirements to continue as an association. The organizer of the previous meetings, Katie Jarvis, was elected vice chair, and community member Lorraine Leedy was elected treasurer.
Among the top concerns presented by residents of one of Clark County’s geographically-largest neighborhood associations, were gun fire near and across property, preserving trails in the area, noise ordinances, faster internet, and the concerns surrounding the Yacolt Mountain mine.
“If some of these issues are important to you, and you want to see them dealt with, given a whole lot more attention, and your neighbors coming on board with you and helping you with these issues, then you want to be chairman,” said Jarvis to those gathered.
After a period of silence and no one stepping forward for the position of chair, East Fork Community Coalition (EFCC) member and advocate for concerns about the Yacolt Mountain Quarry, Gary Ogier, submitted his name. He was quickly elected chair by eager and thankful neighbors.
“What I’m interested in with the neighborhood association is finding all the other issues that are important to people and getting something done on those,” Ogier said. “The Yacolt mine, I’ve been involved in that for about a year and a half, and I want to continue because I think that affects a lot of people. That’s probably my number one issue right now.”
Prior to the election of officers, the some two dozen neighbors in attendance heard from county representatives and discussed top issues for their new group. Issues were, in part, addressed by Code Enforcement Officer Mike Boyer, who oversees the Conditional Use Permit at Yacolt Mountain Quarry, and Clark County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Deputy Ashley Hackett, who serves as a neighborhood association liaison with the department.
“My job as a code enforcement officer is primarily to enforce the nuisance code. There are only two of us out in the field. Between the two of us in the field we have 1,100 calls,” Boyer said. “Not to make excuses, but it is a very hectic job in terms of the the volume of complaints and responses and follow ups and reports and things of that nature.”
Several questions were raised to Boyer concerning the Yacolt Mountain mine and the dispute over if operation is permitted on certain holidays; specifically Veteran’s Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Boyer responded saying the issue was being addressed and more information could be had by attending the Surface Mining Advisory Committee (SMAC) meetings, and voicing concerns there.
“We are looking at it as a violation of the code and the CUP,” Boyer said of the mine operating this MLK Day. “Right now I am working with Mitch [Nickolds] on what exactly the violation is here and how we’re going to work through this process and also this has brought a lot of points for improving the CUP process in the future.”
Bo Storedahl of JL Storedahl and Sons, who operates the mountain top mine, relayed that he was unaware of the stipulation, and has operated on MLK Day and Veterans Day since the company started in Clark County nearly 40 years ago. He also said after speaking with other mine and gravel pit operators in the area, they said they too had never been required to cease operation on those holidays.
The neighborhood issues of accumulating garbage and abandoned vehicles, known to locals as “zombies,” were also brought up. The group inquired as to the process Boyer or any code enforcement officer would go through to correct such behavior. Boyer explained that warnings are issued first and then fines, which if ignored accumulate and are placed in a backlog of potential litigation to be filed by the county.
Following Boyer’s presentation, Deputy Hackett introduced herself to the group and explained the process for lodging criminal complaints, emergency and non-emergency, with herself and CCSO. Hackett, originally from Battle Ground, has been working for the county since July. During her presentation she received several questions regarding target practice shooting and ordinances surrounding it.
One neighbor described a situation where his neighbor was discharging a .308 rifle in the evening and disturbing him and his family. He said he contacted the Sheriff’s Office in the past and received a frustrating answer and no lasting change in his neighbors behavior. It took several weeks to have a conversation with a commander and still not much has changed, he said.
“We do do ordinance, but that’s not our bread and butter, our bread and butter is like criminal stuff,” Hackett said, acknowledging the neighbor’s negative experience. “I think that’s where the disconnect is, is that we don’t do that on a regular basis. And whether that’s wrong or right I can’t necessarily speak to that, but it’s just that way and I apologize for that.”
The neighbor went on to apologize for his frustration, and inquired as to the ordinance dictating quiet hours, which the deputy didn’t know off hand but said the hours are in fact an ordinance. According to WAC 332-52-130, quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. seven days a week.
Following both Boyer and Hackett, neighbor and president of the EFCC Dick Leeuwenberg, presented the most recent findings and concerns regarding the Yacolt Mountain mine. This prompted many questions from across the room, to which Leeuwenberg asked for quiet and explained that more information can be found by through EFCC and the SMAC meetings, of which the next is expected to be sometime in February.
Marilee McCall, who works as program coordinator for the County Manager’s Office, also attended the gathering to advise on several elements required by the county. She explained the need for these organizations and how their communication with the county improves the municipality’s ability to serve residents.
“I believe that it’s important for a lot of reasons. The neighborhood associations exist, not only for the neighborhoods to build community and have an avenue of conversation with Clark County departments and with Clark County Council, but it also gives us an opportunity as the county to engage with citizens that are already wanting to have more information about what’s going on in their area,” McCall said. “We’ve lost our sense of community with our modern society. What I feel is the most important function and the primary function of neighborhoods is to rebuild that community.”
The group’s meeting concluded with officer elections, ranking of issues and dissemination of possible bylaws. At their next meeting, the group plans to ratify the bylaws and begin their official meeting schedule.