Chris Fitzgerald, KP News
Rumors and protest letters from neighbors have been flying for over a year regarding a large tract of land at Devil’s Head, acquired by Timothy Jopp for $2.3 million in November 2005. The property had long been eyed by local supporters for a park. While park proponents were trying to acquire sufficient grants to purchase the property, Jopp stepped forward with a proposed purchase amount significantly above an existing appraisal done on behalf of conservation efforts.
Nowhere in the application file, several inches thick at Pierce County Planning and Land Services, is mention of Jopp’s intent to create a casino, heliport, housing development, or private resort at Devil’s Head. Nevertheless, rumors abound around the suspected plans of his holding company, “Inspiration Inn, LLC.”
Over 20 protest letters from concerned neighbors urge planning staff to keep close watch over the actions of the new landowner, who applied for a Department of Natural Resources Forest Practices logging permit, and began logging seven acres in February 2006 after the original 40-acre logging permit was denied.
According to an email from DNR to county planners in December 2006, Jopp’s original request was disapproved because “it was located on glacial soils above a deep-seated landslide. Landowner did not want to spend the money to have a geotechnical report done.” Included in the permit process was a “Bald Eagle Site Management Plan” from the Department of Fish and Wildlife that Jopp signed. The plan identified two eagle nests and the “no-cut buffer” the landowner, by signing, agreed to honor.
One of the plan’s objectives is “to protect bald eagles and their habitat, including nesting, perching, screening, and foraging trees.” Jopp received a mandatory “Notice of Moratorium” in connection with the logging permit, which he signed in February 2006, that states “I/we declare that the land subject to this…will not be converted to an active use (development of any kind) incompatible with timber growing within six years.”
Subsequent to logging, Jopp started a gravel pit operation. In August 2006 he sent a letter to adjacent landowners Judson and Georgia Matthias, who reside in Arizona. The letter reads, in part, “I plan on developing the site as a gravel pit for a period of at least 10 years… I would like to… buy your property…” The Matthiases sent a copy to the county nine months later with a cover letter stating, “We are very concerned with any plans he has to develop this site.”
According to county code enforcement officials, Jopp illegally removed approximately 802 cubic yards of gravel from the site before he was stopped. An “open violation” was filed in September 2006 for “grading property and extracting gravel without permits, and clearing near eagle nest and forest practice violation.” A “stop work order” was issued. A second Planning document states, in capital letters, “Do not issue any permits until this violation is resolved.”
According to Scott Sissons, environmental biologist for Planning and Land Services, an application from Jopp was received in January 2007 to remove the six-year development moratorium. In May, a letter requiring wetland and fish and wildlife review was sent by the county to Jopp, with no response to date. Shortly thereafter, Shane McWilliams made an inquiry to the county about all the logging trucks coming from Devil’s Head, and sent Sissons an email asking why wetlands were “being logged right through with no regards to their sensitivity.”
McWilliams lives on a farm in Longbranch, and is an outspoken opponent of development in a very specific area — from Home to the end of Devil’s Head. “This area should never be used for development,” he said. “Our peninsula is but a sliver of land jutting out into the water… a maximum of two miles wide.” He speaks passionately about the “fragile ecosystem” of wetlands and woodlands he has explored on foot for a lifetime.
Sissons responded to McWilliams via email on June 7, writing, “If there are impacts to regulated wetlands and/or drainage courses, mitigation will be required to restore the impacted areas. There will be a public hearing to lift the development moratorium on the parcel.”
In an interview with the KP News, McWilliams displayed aerial photographs he paid to have taken of the Devil’s Head property, illustrating the size of the gravel pit operation, and wetlands drainage resulting in discernable silt run-off into the small cove below the site. In a statement to the KP News, he wrote, “Our fresh water tables are fragile and affected with every cut into the land and logging developers are doing who have no regard to wetlands, wildlife, wind/water erosion into the salt waters, or the quiet way of life 95 percent of the people who live here cherish.”
Diane Marcus Jones, the planner assigned to Jopp’s file, said the violations remain on file and active, with no resolution to date. Jones said, “I have also heard the rumors,” and added that Jopp had not disclosed his plans for the property.
Janna Manson, who represented herself as Jopp’s development assistant, initially told the KP News the entire 95 acres would be for sale within the week with her new real estate company, but then called back to say Jopp was “indecisive; he is in the process of making some decisions.” When asked about county records regarding the property, Manson said, “The county doesn’t update their system; their information is wrong.” She said Jopp did not plan to return a call from KP News.
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