TALENT — An environmental group and the city of Talent have appealed a Jackson County staff decision that would allow an asphalt plant to continue to operate despite concerns expressed by nearby neighbors and the city.
Rogue Advocates appealed the March 25 decision, citing Mt. View Paving's noncompliance with various country regulations, public health and safety concerns and failure to meet federal and state regulations. Monday was the appeals deadline.
Talent cited a failure of the county to collaborate on decisions affecting land now in the county that is slated to eventually be within city limits as required under a joint agreement.
"Essentially the grounds are the lack of compliance with having the city and the county participate in advance with the UGB (Urban Growth Boundary areas) as provided under the areas of mutual planning concern," said City Planner Mark Knox.
A public hearing on the appeals will be held by county land use hearings officer Donald Rubenstein. His ruling would be a final county decision, but the issue could be appealed to the state. A hearing date has yet to be set.
"This issue has been simmering for a long time and the county's unwillingness to enforce land use safeguards for so long is allowing this problem to boil over," said Melissa Matthewson, executive director of Rogue Advocates.
Mt. View Paving has operated an asphalt batch plant at the site just south of Exit 21 adjacent to Bear Creek since 2001. In its staff ruling, Jackson County, based on its ordinances, said the non-conforming use can continue due to historical presence and authorized a development permit to cover structures built without permits.
Residents of Mt. View Estates senior living community, located just across Bear Creek from the plant, held a demonstration on March 2 and have been vocal in their opposition to the plant's continued operation. They and others have expressed concerns about odors, emissions from the plant and its potential impact in the event of a flood.
Mt. View Estate's owner Chris Hudson said in light of the Rogue Advocates' appeal the park will not file its own appeal.
"What we were looking for basically is to have an appeal," said Hudson. "I encouraged the residents not to (appeal) also. There's bigger fish to fry coming down the road."
Should Rubenstein uphold the county decision, Hudson said, any appeal of that action would go before Oregon's Land Use Board of Appeals.
"If they are granted the request, we will appeal it," said Hudson.
Mt. View Paving owner Paul Meyer said Monday had not seen the appeals and declined to comment until he had time to review them.
Last week, the Talent City Council authorized staff to file an appeal. The city had requested the plant conform to its flood plain standards and that operating hours be limited. The county did rule to restrict the hours.
"From the city's position, we are looking not just at this issue but at a dialogue with the county on our property," said Mayor Bill Cecil.
In a prepared statement, Rogue Advocates claimed the county has ignored the issue since a first application for non-confirming uses submitted in 2001 was withdrawn. Applications submitted in 2011 were withdrawn before the hearings officer could rule on county decisions to let the asphalt operation continued.
Rogue Advocates attorney Courtney Johnson said Jackson County failed to look at whether historical uses at the site were lawful at the time local zoning codes went into effect, a criteria to approve non-conforming uses.
"Asphalt and gravel are necessary for development, but the point is to get those things in the areas where they won't be conflict with other uses," said Johnson.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at email@example.com.