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News / Northwest

Gravel yard by Snohomish County elementary school now up for sale

By Daniel Beekman, The Seattle Times
Published: June 7, 2024, 11:50am

The site of a Snohomish County gravel yard that stirred controversy earlier this year by operating directly next to an elementary school has, amid legal wrangling with the county, now gone up for sale.

The 2.7-acre property near Everett, which is currently owned by Maple Valley-based OMA Construction, hit the market on May 30, as first reported by The Everett Herald. Colliers has listed the site for $3.5 million and is “offering this as a vacant property at closing,” broker Talor Okada said in an email Thursday.

The yard’s operation has been a subject of contention for months, with school leaders urging the county to address complaints from teachers, students and parents about disruptive noise, truck exhaust and dust.

The drama started last spring after OMA opened the Everett Aggregate Yard next to Fairmount Elementary School and Pathfinder Kindergarten Center without having already obtained permits and gone through environmental reviews. The company began using the site as a distribution hub, with trucks loading and unloading large piles of gravel, sand and other material near classrooms and play areas on the Mukilteo School District campus.

As the county gave OMA time to apply for permits, teachers reported loud bangs interrupting their lessons, dust forcing them to keep their windows closed even on hot days and indications of potential health impacts, such as coughing, bloody noses and headaches. Fairmount’s principal questioned whether the yard would be tolerated next to a wealthier school.

The discord grew in January when an attorney for the yard sent a cease-and-desist letter to Fairmount’s principal, and in February, when the county issued an emergency stop-work order at the site.

The yard’s owner appealed that action. OMA applied for permits in February while mostly denying the noise and dust claims, saying any problems were being mitigated and promising to build a noise wall.

The state attorney general and health department subsequently raised concerns about the yard’s impacts, and the parties went to court after the county cited OMA for violating its stop-work order. In April, a judge prohibited OMA from using the property without permits.

OMA didn’t return requests for comment Thursday. Its permit applications are still under review and its legal dispute with the county is ongoing.

“District staff were unaware” that OMA was putting the site up for sale, a school district spokesperson said in an email. “We are not sure if or how it will affect current proceedings, but we will follow the process closely. In the meantime, the relief from the noise and dust has been appreciated.”

Jennifer Masella, who has a son at Fairmount and a daughter at Pathfinder, hopes the property’s sale listing means the yard won’t reopen. Her kids have been sick for a lot of the school year, she said.

“It’s not done until it’s done. That worries me a little bit,” Masella said.

Fairmount teachers are relieved to see the property listed for sale, said Tory Kartchner, Mukilteo Education Association president.

“Since the yard shut down, there’s just been a sense of calm at the school. You can hear the birds during recess,” the union leader said.

“A number of my members have reported feeling better. Their health has improved. We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to maintain this quiet around the school and get back to focusing on teaching and learning.”