Deal on gravel pit will allow company to complete work

Extension OK’d by city also addresses neighbors’ concerns

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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The road to an agreement about how Tapani Underground will finish its work at its gravel mine off Northeast 18th Street was bumpy, but neighbors and the company seemed happy with the end point Monday night.

After three public hearings, the Vancouver City Council approved a three-year extension to a development agreement with Tapani Underground of Battle Ground. The company bought the 19-acre mine from the Schmid family last fall, and revived it from a slumbering state to an active seven-day-a-week work site. From early morning to evening, trucks ferried the heavy loads to the St. Johns Road and state Highway 500 interchange project.

Neighbors immediately noticed increased noise, dust, erosion, pollution and worsening roads, and as the city and Tapani started work on extending the development agreement, numerous residents chimed in asking for mitigation.

Ultimately, the company agreed to work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week, until the St. Johns project is complete, at which point they will cut back to six days a week. Trucks will be kept to a 10 mph speed limit in the mine to cut down dust and noise, and will also turn off engines when idle. During dry times, they will water the area to tamp down dust as well.

Truck traffic could be as much as 3,600 trips a month down the busy roads, but after the St. Johns construction finishes, Tapani agreed to no more than 1,300 trips a month.

On Northeast 155th Avenue, adjacent to the property, Tapani will also do road repairs of up to 1,500 square feet. The road has been classified as failed under city street standards.

The mine should be completely tapped by the end of the year, the company says; two additional years on the development agreement will give Tapani time to fill

the mine and ready it for sale for redevelopment. Company officials said that for about six weeks this summer, noise will increase as a rock crusher is brought in to finish breaking up concrete already on site.

Countryside Woods Neighborhood Association Chairman Steve Wille said he appreciated the time that the company and the city council took to make an agreement that worked for all parties.

“Our area, including the mine, is zoned low-density single family -- we’d like to see that continue,” said Wille, who suggested turning the acreage into a park that extends off of nearby First Place Park. “We’d like to make this an amenity to the neighborhood.”

Lee Tapani, president of the company, said his company is doing its best to finish its work and protect the ears, lungs and property values of those living nearby.

“It’s our intent to do the right thing, as the neighbors say,” Tapani said, adding he’d make the project manager’s phone number available to the neighborhood associations.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542; http://twitter.com/col_cityhall;andrea.damewood@columbian.com.