MEDFORD — Supporters and opponents of Mountain View Paving presented conflicting testimony Monday about when an asphalt batch plant existed on a site near Talent. Those dates may be critical to the plant's future operation.
Jackson County Land Use Hearing Officer Donald Rubenstein heard the appeal of a tentative ruling by the county that allows Mountain View Paving to continue operating. Rubenstein will render a final decision by Sept. 26.
Rubenstein must determine from submitted evidence and testimony if the plant is a lawfully established, nonconforming use. Operation dates will be considered in the final ruling.
Paul Meyer has operated the existing plant at the site since 2001 and asserts that batch plants have always been on the 11-acre site between Bear Creek and Interstate 5. Meyer filed applications in 2012 to gain declaration of a nonconforming use and to allow development in the flood plain.
When Jackson County changed zoning on the land in 1973, existing asphalt plant use would have been "grandfathered" for the future if it was lawful at the time.
But attorney Courtney Johnson, representing appellant Rogue Advocates, said clear records don't exist for use at that time.
"The vital question is, what is the nature of the use?" said Johnson. She noted that an aggregate operation at the site run by Howard DeYoung was well established, but records are less clear on asphalt plant operations.
Attorney Dan O'Connor for Mountain View Paving has submitted evidence asserting plant operation during the 1960s, from 1978 to 1986 and for other dates.
"There is no evidence "¦ that the batch use was ever discontinued," said O'Connor.
A search of phone books failed to show batch plants at the site during several periods, Johnson said. Searches by the state Department of Environmental Quality and the environmental group Riverkeepers have failed to produce records of permits to allow the operation, she added.
Johnson also said a letter between DeYoung and Meyer discussed putting in a batch plant.
"The applicant has not met the burden to show the use was in place in 1973," Johnson said.
Ten people spoke opposing the plant's continuing operation.
"It's only been in the last few years that the site has been objectionable," said Ron Newbry, who stood at the podium with his 92-year-old mother, Charlotte, who lives 300 yards from the plant.
"When the plant starts up it sounds like a 747," Ron Newbry said.
Others objected to alleged increases in the plant's operations.
"In the last few years, the operation has doubled in size," said Cecilia Pestlin, who lives in Mountain View Estates across from the plant.
James Schellentrager, who lives in south Talent, said fumes from the plant prevent him and his wife Marguerite from eating outside during nicer weather. He was also critical of the firm's operation without permits.
"This is really not a business that has played by the rules," Schellentrager said.
Rubenstein left the record open until July 12 for additional submission by anyone who participated in the hearing or in the application appeal process. Rebuttals to those arguments and submissions must be made by July 31.
O'Connor agreed to an extension of the deadline for a decision on the application to Sept. 26. Rubenstein must issue a final ruling by that date. His ruling could be contested before Oregon's Land Use Board of Appeals.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.