Fate of KHS lies in appeal, consultation

KINGSTON — The future of North Kitsap School District’s proposed high school off West Kingston Road hangs in the balance of two key events, each of which holds the power to permanently derail the project, or send it forward with new-found confidence.

An appeal by Kingston residents to the school district’s Conditional Use Permit (CUP) application has halted site development work on the project until the Kitsap County Commissioners meet Aug. 23 to hear the case.

The Environmental Protection Agency will be testing drinking water and soils at the Kingston Nike Site for radiation on and adjacent to the proposed school’s property in a brief follow-up study to its Preliminary Assessment/Site Investigation (PA/SI) it conducted over the past year. The EPA’s work coincides with a Washington Department of Health consultation in the Kingston area, which is performing a risk assessment to discover whether Kingston residents are being exposed to harmful toxins associated with the Nike site or through other means.

Both the appeal and the combined DOH and EPA study will determine what move the school district can make next in moving forward with the high school site work.

EPA Site Assessment Manager Denise Baker said her organization will further study the site for radiation after concerns surfaced that nuclear weapons were stored at the Kingston site.

“The community is so concerned that I have to act,” she said. “We thought we did a very complete, thorough job but because the community raised concerns, I thought I had to take an additional step.”

DOH officials have previously stated the health consultation will be completed sometime between October and November, though no date has been announced yet. The results of the DOH’s study, Baker said, would state what level of risk there is in placing a school on the site.

Kingston Nike site neighbors Jeff Owen and Terry Patterson’s CUP appeal with Kitsap County listed several concerns, including vegetation buffer zones around the high school site, property zoning and concerns that the EPA’s investigation did not conclude if the site was safe for a high school. The matter is complex, said Owen, but one of the main issues is that the Nike site has still not been investigated thoroughly enough and by building there, the district has made too great an assumption about safety.

“We can’t assume,” he said. “Where kids will be, there’s no room for error.”

The district maintains that two investigations — one by private firm Kane Environmental of Seattle and the other by the EPA — are sufficient to begin site work.

Capital Programs Director Robin Shoemaker said she hopes the district can stick to its timeline of opening the school in 2006 as planned but delays are limiting that chance. The best-case scenario for the district — if the commissioners make a quick decision in NKSD’s favor — would be to get logging of finished this year.

“If everything goes like clockwork,” Shoemaker said, adding additional site work this year is not likely.

Owen said if the appeal does go in the district’s favor, he’d hope that provisions would be added to the permit to include additional site testing, increased buffer zones and some changes to the property zoning. If not — and the appeal is struck down — Owen said he’d likely appeal the commissioner’s decision to county Superior Court.

“They’ll leave us no choice,” Owen said

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