An effort to block a proposed gravel pit in rural Spokane County may have ground to a halt this month after a land use judge approved a zoning change that makes the project possible.
The Hanskutt Hills neighborhood group has been fighting to prevent Poe Asphalt from opening a new gravel pit near the unincorporated town of Marshall, approximately halfway between Cheney and downtown Spokane.
Poe Asphalt in 2021 bought a 70-acre gravel pit near Marshall for $3.2 million.
At the same time, the North Idaho paving company spent $1.9 million for 156 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to the pit. Poe plans to mine that undeveloped land and extract roughly 150,000 tons of aggregate per year.
Many area residents oppose that plan. They stress that the undeveloped property, covered in grass and sparse ponderosa, is a wildlife haven. Plus, they say additional mining would be an eyesore, bring unwelcome noise, create air quality issues, lower home values and potentially cause wells to run dry.
Poe Asphalt asked the county to rezone the 156 acres from rural conservation land to mining land, a change that would make it easier to establish a gravel pit.
The Spokane County planning commission and county commissioners approved the change unanimously. The county’s building and planning staff determined that Poe’s project wouldn’t have any significant environmental impacts.
The Hanskutt Hills neighborhood group appealed the zoning change, arguing that Poe’s proposal would clearly have a significant environmental impact as defined by the Washington state environmental policy act.
That appeal pushed the zoning decision to Spokane County Hearing Examiner Chris Anderson, who acts as a judge for controversial land use issues.
In April, Anderson listened to arguments for and against the zoning change. He decided in May that additional analysis was needed to determine the project’s impacts on cultural and historical resources.
This month, Anderson ruled in Poe Asphalt’s favor, denying the neighborhood group’s appeal. He added a historic preservation and archaeological requirement that forces the paving company to prepare a “discovery plan” prior to breaking ground.
Homeowners opposing the mine have one more opportunity to stop the project.
They can appeal the hearing examiner’s ruling to Spokane County Superior Court and try to convince a judge to overturn Anderson’s decision.
As of noon Friday, no appeal had been filed. Zak Griefen, the group’s attorney, declined to comment on whether an appeal is planned by the Sept. 8 deadline.
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