June 20, 2002
department was alerted to Bill Bridges' saw sharpening business on 440th Place
Southeast near Ernie's Grove in 2001 by a neighbor's noise complaint.
It found that the business, Pacific Northwest Industrial Saws, which sharpens
saws for mills in Oregon and Washington including Weyerhaeuser Co.'s mill in
Snoqualmie, wasn't allowed under the property's RA-2.5 zoning and it needed to
obtain a new building permit. The business employs five people.
Bridges and the property's former owner, Neil Dubey, appealed the DDES code
enforcement, saying the business was allowed because the property, which is
bordered on three sides by forested land, has historically been home to
Cecil Littlejohn's North Fork Enterprises-Littlejohn Inc. contract logging
business was located at the site from 1962-2001. It was from Littlejohn the
Dubey purchased the property in 2000, the same year in which Pacific Northwest
Industrial Saws moved to the location.
The following year, Dubey sold the 2.66-acre parcel to Bridges.
In his decision, King County Hearing Examiner Stafford Smith found Pacific
Northwest Industrial Saws was a permitted nonconforming use under county
regulations because it would have been allowed by the property's previous
zoning. But he said it did need a new building permit, as its main building,
constructed in 1983, was originally permitted for hay storage, not saw
Environmental consultant Paul Carkeek of Eco-Sight, who represented Bridges
and Dubey, said DDES's code-enforcement actions follow a trend of the
department targeting rural businesses.
"Rural people have a right to live and work in the rural area," he
said. Carkeek believes Smith's decision sets a precedent, as land-use policies
have forced many rural businesses to close since the adoption of the 1994
county comprehensive plan.
"Rural character" is not just about preserving open spaces, but also
rural culture, Carkeek said, and Smith's decision recognizes that.
"If we are going to do anything about rural character, this is where we
begin," he said.
Bridges was not available for comment. But Dubey said cases like theirs were
turning rural King County into one large bedroom community.
"I'm not very political minded, but by God, we should be able to work
here in the Valley," he said.
DDES Code Enforcement Supervisor Elizabeth Deraitus said her department is not
targeting rural businesses like Pacific Northwest Industrial Saws. It
responded to a complaint and it found a business that appeared to conflict
with the property's current zoning, which allows "growing and harvesting
forest product" and "forest research."
"We found it has changed over the years and that it was no longer legal
as it stood," she said.
"We are not out to try and cut business in the rural area. That has never
been one of our goals."
Deraitus said DDES isn't planning an appeal.
In his decision, Smith cited policies introduced by Metropolitan King County
Councilman David Irons that had been adopted as comprehensive plan amendments
in 2000. The policies state the county's support of rural cottage industries,
and direct Executive Ron Sims, through DDES, to review county regulations to
see whether they conflict with the policies.
The review was supposed to have been completed by Dec. 31, 2001, but Deraitus
said staffing cuts have put the project on hold. Despite the lack of review,
Smith used the policies to support his decision.
"Normally the staff interpretation would be entitled to prevail," he
wrote. "Generally, nonconforming uses are regarded contrary to current
policy and their extinguishment is favored.
"In the [Bridges and Dubey] case, however, the interpretation of the
scope of forest industry use needs to take into account the clear intent of
the 2000 comprehensive plan amendments to encourage preservation of
traditional forestry practices."
Irons said DDES is ignoring the comprehensive plan policies, which is putting
rural businesses at risk.
"It seems like what we're doing ... the actual outcome is we're having a
sterilization" of the county's rural areas, he said. "Which, to me,
is a dramatic overreach of our legislation."
Smith's decision, Irons added, marks the first time in recent years the
pendulum has swung the other way and favored a rural business over county
"It's the first successful shot in this battle," he said.
But many rural businesses or cottage industries do not have a history of
similar business practices occurring on the same property, unlike Pacific
Northwest Industrial Saws. That's necessary in order for the county to allow a
Deraitus said if a business can't establish that history, DDES must follow the
"What's written in the codes is what we've had to enforce," she