Asphalt plant debate heats up

A half-dozen speakers told Jackson County commissioners Wednesday morning they are unhappy that Mountain View Paving's Talent asphalt plant continues to operate despite what they view as a ruling that the plant is illegal.

But county staff members said the ruling sanctions portions of the batch plant and that they will press the owners to get permits for those parts and review options for structures that were added after 2003.

"Right now there are components that were in place in 2000 and 2003 that are legal, and there are components that are not," said County Development Services Director Kelly Madding.

County Hearings Officer Donald Rubenstein on Sept. 26 overturned a county staff decision declaring the plant a legal, non-conforming use after environmental group Rogue Advocates and the city of Talent appealed. But Rubenstein also ruled portions of the plant are allowed as a continuing, non-conforming use.

Talent residents claimed continuing operations are not legal during public testimony at the commission's regular meeting. Madding spoke after the testimony. Commission Chairman Don Skundrick did not allow rebuttal or debate on the issues.

"When are you going to ask your staff to have him stop and move the operation?" asked Meri Walker, referring to Mountain View Paving owner Paul Meyer.

Talent residents have complained of dust, noise and odor rising from the operation. The 11-acre site is located in the floodplain between Interstate 5 and Bear Creek south of Exit 21.

"This decision is the law. Our commissioners and the staff are obligated to follow the law," said Ellen Dennis. "All of the voters will be watching."

Madding denied allegations by Walker that she met with agents for Mountain View Paving before speaking to news media about the ruling last week.

Madding said some people may have heard a report on one broadcast station that the hearings officer's decision meant the plant had to cease operations. She said it appeared the station had not thoroughly read the 22-page ruling. Madding has conferred with both Rubenstein and county counsel to clarify the decision.

"You don't just look at one page, you have to read and interpret the entire document," said County Counsel Joel Benton.

Madding will meet with Mountain View Paving's agent, attorney Dan O'Connor, later this week to discuss the firm's options.

Floodplain development applications will have to be filed for structures that existed up to 2003. Permits could also be sought for structures erected after that year or the structures could be removed, said Madding.

Three complaints had been filed against the plant by Wednesday afternoon. Board policy calls for working with parties that may be in violation and to allow them to continue to operate while they seek to meet codes.

"We allow people to do things to move toward compliance," said Madding.

Rubenstein ruled that batching had been carried out at the site since the 1960s and is therefore allowed to continue despite a change in zoning. The decision can be appealed to Oregon's Land Use Board of Appeals by Oct. 17.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at

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