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District offered deal for drop of appeal

KINGSTON — While an ongoing site appeal concerning Nike site safety has stalled development of Kingston High School for months, site neighbor Ken Lassesen has come forth with a solution he believes would create a “win-win” scenario to end delays.

Lassesen, owner of 25 acres to the north of the Kingston High School site, has offered to shave the asking price of his real estate to the North Kitsap School District — though it is not known by how much — if it agrees not to build on or tamper with the decommissioned Kingston Nike site.

Fellow Kingston residents and primary appellants of the new school site, Jeff Owen and Terry Patterson, appear to have signaled they’d drop their case if the district agrees to leave the Nike site untouched and instead utilize Lassesen’s property.

“The parties of the appeal have indicated a willingness to settle the appeal if the playing fields over the old Nike Missile batteries are moved to the land that we offer,” Lassesen said. “If it goes ahead, construction (of the school) can start immediately.”

Word of the deal comes at a time when the appeal’s hearing is less than two weeks away. It goes before Kitsap County Court March 31. Lassesen’s 25-acre property is listed for $3.3 million through John L. Scott Real Estate.

The school district cannot discuss real estate matters publicly and did not comment on the appellants’ offer. The next time the school board meets for an executive session is March 24.

The district is also awaiting word from Kitsap County on the Site Development Activity Permit (SDAP), needed to begin the process of building the school. Should the appeal be settled either in court — or out of it — the district will push to begin construction of the school as soon as possible to keep the timetable to open it in 2007 on track. The project has already been delayed a year.

Costs are also a factor, said NKSD Capital Programs Director Robin Shoemaker, noting that the district needs to find numerous businesses for construction.

“The later we go in the season, the fewer sub-(contractors) there are available,” she said. “And that’s why the costs are driving up.”

Owen and Patterson’s site appeal began last summer, when they objected to Kitsap County’s approval of the school district’s Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to develop the site. Their rationale for the appeal was that the Nike site, which operated as a missile silo from 1954-1975, had not been examined thoroughly enough by state and private agencies, including a district-hired firm, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington Department of Health (DOH).

“The DOH and EPA still haven’t addressed the two main problems,” Owen said. “We were actually shocked that they didn’t do the boring of the silos and the metal detecting for any buried canisters and drums.”

All three agencies said they found no contaminants of concern stemming from the Nike site last year. But Owen was unconvinced and appealed to the Kitsap County Courts, following their initial appeal, which was struck down by the Kitsap County Commissioners.

Barring a deal between Lassesen and the school district, the court date of March 31 could hear from both sides and a decision by a judge could even be made. If the appeal is struck down, Owen said he will not appeal to a higher court.

“At the end of the day, if the judge rules against us, I’ve done everything I can,” Owen said.

Even so, he hopes the judge will agree to do warrant testing of the silos and buried canisters to ensure site safety. He said he’s invested “tens of thousands” of dollars in the case, and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again if needed.

“I would do it again because at the end of the day, if the public got hurt, how the heck do you sleep at night?” he said.

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