TALENT — The City Council voted, 5-0, Wednesday to continue its appeal of Jackson County rulings that grant approvals for the Mountain View Paving asphalt plant on Bear Creek just outside city limits.
Almost 100 people attended and 22 spoke at a public hearing held before the vote.
Town residents protested noise, smells and dust arising from the operation and urged that the appeal continue. However, building industry representatives supported Mountain View for providing an alternative source of asphalt.
City officials had explored withdrawing as part of an arrangement with Mountain View to mitigate impact of the plant, situated next to Interstate 5, and ultimately to purchase the site for open space.
"I want to go full steam ahead with the appeal," Councilor Darby Stricker said.
Jackson County's Development Services Department March 25 issued tentative approvals of Mountain View's nonconforming use in the flood plain and a development permit related to structures and equipment at the site. The city and environmental group Rogue Advocates appealed the decisions. A hearing on the appeals will be held before the Jackson County Hearings Officer on June 24.
Councilor Joan Dean, while supporting continuation, said she would like to see the city continue to consider mitigation, because "it would be much better than going to court."
Any arrangement would require Rogue Advocates to also withdraw its appeal. But a spokesman said the group has decided not to participate in any negotiated arrangement at present.
A proposal from Mountain View owner Paul Meyer's attorney to the city included continued operation at the site until 2025, sale of the property to the city at that time for $250,000, installation of a silo for asphalt storage to reduce operating hours, implementation of a flood plain hazards containment plan and screening of the site.
Rogue Advocates' Steve Rouse read a letter from the group's attorney into the record during the public hearing.
"The Board (of Rogue Advocates) deems the offer premature and we prefer to prudently consider all new information and public comment that will be presented at the June 24 de novo appeal hearing before considering if a settlement is appropriate," the letter said.
The letter characterized mitigation proposals as "woefully inadequate." It also stated the equipment installation would allow the firm to handle larger jobs. But the group didn't rule out a negotiated settlement after the hearing and before a final county decision.
Numerous residents urged the council to stick with the appeal.
"If you vote to continue the appeal you are supporting the citizens," said George Weiss. "If you vote not to continue you are turning your backs on the citizens of Talent."
Support for Mt. View Paving and for Meyer came from builders, truck drivers, architects, contractors and others in the construction industry.
"I'm willing to help this man and also create jobs (to) "¦ provide a product at reasonable price," said Carlos Reichenshammer, chief executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Jackson County. He also called for a fair and equitable process in dealing with the operation.
Meyer addressed concerns about pollution and perceptions that his operation has avoided scrutiny. He said the firm has not violated air or water quality standards.
"I have been looked at continuously by Fish and Wildlife, Division of State Lands and (the Department of Environmental Quality)," said Meyer. "I have not flown under the radar. If you have an asphalt plant next to the freeway it's like trying to hide an elephant in short grass."
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.