Efforts to balance industrial and residential interests in the Countryside Woods neighborhood continued during the March 5th meeting of Vancouver’s City Council. The Evergreen Pit, located on the corner of NE 18th and NE 155th, has served as a valuable local source of gravel for decades, but the details surrounding its final months of operation remain uncertain.

After spending the week working with the city attorney, representatives of Evergreen Pit did not attend the follow-up city council meeting.

According to a City development agreement (DA) originally negotiated in 1997, mining operations at the pit were scheduled to cease on Dec. 31st of last year.

To support unfinished construction projects like those on St. Johns and Highway 14, the city is currently looking at a proposal that would extend active mining of the pit for up to a year. This extension would then be followed by two years of reclamation efforts such as leveling, grading, and vegetating the property.

After hearing from both city staff members and concerned Countryside Woods residents at their February 27th meeting, Vancouver City Council requested a continuation to provide property owners Tapani Underground the time to address citizen complaints and to refine their proposed position. In response, the city’s attorney’s office spent the week working with Tapani to tighten the language of their draft proposal covering such issues as pollution prevention, hours of operation, and speed limits for company trucks.

Perhaps most contentious is Tapani’s ongoing insistence upon the inclusion of a 90-day extension clause that would allow mining operations to continue into 2013 if “unexpected” circumstances happen to arise. This clause is of great concern to city councilmembers and Countryside Woods residents who want to see a concrete termination date scheduled and honored. Taking into consideration the fact that the development agreement has already been extended past its original date of termination, Councilmember Jeanne Stewart echoes the feelings of many when she says “we need to have a conclusion time” that is “certain” and “clear-cut.”

Countryside Woods resident Renee Anttila asks Tapani Underground to act as a good neighbor.

However, simply knowing when Tapani’s operations will come to an end is not enough for Countryside Woods residents like Renee Anttila. She insists that the company must do more to act as a good neighbor in the interim, and she fears that some of her biggest health and safety complaints aren’t even being addressed. Although Mrs. Anttila commends Tapani for reducing airborne fumes over the past week, she is dismayed that several issues (including constructing a protective berm behind her property and relocating the company’s service road to a less intrusive location) have been left off the negotiating table.

To help ameliorate existing tensions, city councilmembers are unanimous in their instance that neighbors are kept informed of Tapani’s ongoing mining and reclamation policies through regular community meetings. Although the company has informed city officials that they are amenable to this kind of neighborhood involvement, their failure to represent themselves at the March 5th meeting is certainly inconsistent with any such effort. Pointing out Tapani’s conspicuous absence, Councilmember Jack Burkman expressed that he was “a little concerned.”

Awaiting further clarification of Tapani’s proposed terms and concessions, the Council has once again agreed to postpone their official vote. They will continue to address the issue at their next scheduled meeting on March 19th.