Sand pit’s stop work order upheld

The city hearing examiner denied an appeal this week by a local development company forced to halt work on a 4-acre sand pit operation on the island’s south end.

In her decision, Hearing Examiner Margaret Klockars affirmed the city’s late June decision to halt the operation at the intersection of Fletcher Bay and Lynwood Center roads for violating land use permit rules and possibly endangering the largely residential area’s underground water supply.

A subsequent investigation by the state Department of Natural Resources determined that the area disturbed by excavation exceeded its permissible limit by over an acre.

Developer Bill Nelson, who used the site to extract sand and store topsoil from another location, appealed in July, stressed that the excavation followed proper channels to earn city approval. Nelson, who owns the island-based Nelson Wood and Glass development company, also argued that the city’s stop work assessment included land affected by other digs over the last 50 years.

According to Klockars, state rules require excavation permits to include a site’s historical use as well as current use.

Nelson violated state rules by not disclosing the site’s disturbed areas beyond the portions he intended to use. By expanding the site’s disturbed areas by more than three acres, Nelson is required to obtain a state surface mine reclamation permit, which he failed to do, according to Klockars.

Nelson could not be reached for comment, but Klockars noted in her decision that Nelson admitted that the site’s usage was in violation of local and state rules.

“The evidence shows, and the appellant concedes, that the activity on the site exceeded that approved in the issued permit,” Klockars wrote in her decision.

The city’s stop work order followed several complaints from island residents that the excavation site may harm the environment.

Located over an aquifer serving about 20 wells, the project could impact the quality and quantity of water for numerous homes and a nearby school, according Bainbridge hydrologists Malcolm Gander and Doug Dow.

Digging to a depth of about 15 feet, workers employed by Nelson extracted approximately 20,000 cubic yards of sandy soil for use at the Blossom Hill commercial and residential development taking shape at Lynwood Center. An equal amount of clay-like soil from the Blossom Hill site was to be used for filling holes at the sand pit.

“The topsoil does contain organic materials that should not be buried as organics breaking down in the absence of oxygen produce products that can contaminate ground water,” Klockars wrote.

City Administrator Mark Dombroski said Nelson must restore the site, leaving no holes or piles.