Despite daily fines, a Lane County gravel mining operation continues to haul rock away from a 600-foot butte that, over decades, could be reduced to a 200-foot stub.
DEXTER — Despite daily fines, a Lane County gravel mining operation continues to haul rock away from a 600-foot butte that, over decades, could be reduced to a 200-foot stub.
Neighbors have objected to the work at Parvin Butte, and the county has begun fining the owners $330 a day for working without land-use approvals, The Eugene Register-Guard reported Tuesday.
The developers contend the county lacks authority to regulate the mine. The mine is at Dexter, an unincorporated area southeast of Eugene.
In October 2009, companies controlled by Greg Demers and brothers Melvin and Norman McDougal bought the 51.5-acre butte from Union Pacific for about $360,000. A quarry on the east side hadn't been used for 40 years, the Register-Guard reported.
Starting last year, the butte was logged, and then neighbors were surprised to hear excavators dropping rocks into dump trucks.
According to the mining application, more than 60 million tons of rock could be hauled away as the top 400 feet of the hill disappears over decades. The developers plan to ship more than 20 rail-car loads a week to the Oregon coast, where there's demand for gravel, according to state records.
So far, the fines total about $3,000, and the developers are appealing, with a hearing officer's decision possible in January.
The attorney for the miners, Bill Kloos of Eugene, said county approval isn't needed if the mining takes place more than 200 feet inside the property line.
"We have explained this in writing to the county," he said. "We can't explain it any more clearly."
County officials point to another requirement in the county code that says mining operations require a review that allows neighbors to weigh in on the proposal's compatibility with the neighborhood; undue traffic and pedestrian hazards; and adverse impact on public facilities and services.
The butte is zoned for quarry mining, and the owners most likely would get approval to mine if they went through a site review, said Jane Burgess, a compliance officer with Lane County's Land Management Division.
But that process could mean county restrictions on practices such as mining at night, requiring noise-reducing technology or limiting dump truck traffic.
Neighbors say they regret missing a chance to buy the property.
"The noise alone is just going to destroy the whole community setting," said Kim Metzler, who has a log house on the butte's southeastern flank. "When they're crushing, I can't imagine what that will be like in the town."