Court denies Kingston High School appeal

PORT ORCHARD — The North Kitsap School District moved a step closer in its bid to build a high school in Kingston Friday, in what is likely to become a key decision that will allow clearing and construction of the new school site to commence.

Superior Court Judge Theodore Spearman denied an appeal by Kingston neighbors Terry Patterson and Jeff Owen, who had taken NKSD to court over zoning, land use and, primarily, environmental issues stemming from the decommissioned Nike site. The pair had disputed the County Hearing Examiner’s approval of the Conditional Use Permit (CUP), which the district needs to develop the Kingston site.

Spearman’s ruling allows the CUP process to go forward, something that has been on hold since last July, when Owen and Patterson first appealed to the Kitsap County Commissioners.

NKSD administrators have been anticipating the decision, and are all set to release the project to a bidding contractor in early May. Robin Shoemaker, the district’s Director of Capital Programs, said the judge’s actions demonstrate recognition of the work that’s been done studying the Nike site to ensure the future school’s attendees are safe.

“We’re very pleased,” she said. “We’ve been of this belief that the issues have been dealt with in a proper way. This really validates that.”

The district conducted a private investigation through Seattle firm Kane Environmental in late 2003 and early 2004 before the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health came through with studies of their own last year. Appellant Owen disputes the Hearing Examiner’s decision in part because the DOH and EPA reviews of the site were not available in time. In general, he said he’s worried about certain silos on the site that have still not been thoroughly tested.

“NKSD spent $130,000 of taxpayers’ money on the Kane tests when EPA were going to do them anyway,” he said. “I would speculate that for half that amount, the silos could have been tested, and metal detection carried out. But then, they may have found things they would sooner leave buried, whilst they engineered the outcome of any future appeal.”

Owen was uncertain of their next move. They can elect to go to the next court, the Court of Appeals, but the district has indicated that a losing case there would mean that the appellants would have to foot the lawyers’ fees for the district. Shoemaker said she felt the dispute was simply running out of breathing room.

“These were the last of the issues hanging in there,” she said of the denied court claims by the appellants. “It really doesn’t seem like there’s other places to go.”

The appeal period is 30 days, and presumably began the day of the decision. The school district plans to bid the $37.9 million high school on May 5, though Shoemaker said that date will likely change due to high bidding activity by other firms already announced that week. Construction is said to begin in July.

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