Developer penalized

The state Department of Ecology has fined Olympia area developer Walt Cox $36,000 for failing to obtain a construction stormwater permit for a controversial South Bay housing project.

Cox and his representatives have been advised by Ecology several times that their six-lot subdivision at 5226 Shincke Road is large enough to require a permit. Since 2005, Ecology has required the permits whenever 1 acre or more of land is disturbed during construction.

Henderson Inlet is within a county shellfish protection district and an Ecology water quality improvement project. Studies of the inlet indicate stormwater runoff contributes to fecal coliform bacteria problems found in the inlet.

Cox contested the ruling, claiming his project was approved by Thurston County in 2004 when the amount of land disturbed had to be more than 5 acres to require a permit.

The state Pollution Control Hearings Board ruled in February 2009 that the more stringent 2005 rule applied to the Cox project. Cox has appealed the board ruling to Thurston County Superior Court.

“Mr. Cox is putting a lot of time and effort into fighting a permit that most developers understand is a basic requirement for projects like this one,” said Ecology water quality program manager Kelly Susewind. “He would be better served by applying for permit coverage and finishing the project in a way that protects Henderson Inlet from pollution.”

Cox said Monday that he has appealed the pollution board ruling to Thurston County Superior Court and the case is scheduled for hearing in July.

He claimed the Ecology fine is premature, because the case hasn’t been heard in court.

A drainage ditch on the property feeds into Meyer Creek, which flows into Henderson Inlet about one mile from the project.

Neighbors have raised concerns about stormwater runoff leaving the construction site, but Ecology hasn’t witnessed any violation, Ecology site inspector Stephanie Jackson said.

“We have a real pollution problem in Henderson Inlet,” said Shincke Road resident Terry Turner.

Earlier in the project, some residents in the vicinity of the project argued that the on-site septic system designed for Meadowood was located in or too close to a wetland. However the project was approved in 2007 by the Thurston County hearing examiner and county commissioners, acting as the county Board of Health.

They concluded that the on-site septic system was properly designed and outside the wetland boundaries.