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Neighbors upset over asphalt plant extension

TALENT — A deadline extension for a final county decision on a permit for a controversial asphalt plant's continued operation may allow time to resolve issues, says an attorney for the company. But nearby residents are disappointed with the delay.

Medford lawyer Dan O'Connor said Mountain View Paving requested the 90-day extension to try to reach a more amicable resolution with opponents.

"I discussed with the county about giving it to try to see if we can reach some sort of resolution in terms of mitigations," said O'Connor.

Nearby residents are upset with continued operation of the plant, complaining about fumes and noise and expressing worries about its potential flood impact. The plant is located on Bear Creek just south of Exit 21 from Interstate 5 and across the creek from Mountain View Estates.

"Of course I'm disappointed," said Mountain View Estates owner Chris Hudson. "If they are going to be doing asphalt during the summer that's more detrimental to our senior citizens' health."

"It's noisier and smellier it seems like this time of year," said Lois Schmidt, a Mountain View Estates resident.

Jackson County Development Services issued a tentative decision on March 25 that allows the plant to continue. But the city of Talent and Rogue Advocates filed appeals to trigger a public hearing.

Hearings Officer Donald Rubenstein will rule on the appeals, producing a final county decision. That ruling had been due by May 24. The final county ruling can be appealed to the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

State law allows an applicant to extend deadlines for land use decisions up to 215 days beyond an initial due date. A ruling will now be due by Aug. 22. Jackson County did not seek the extension.

Jackson County will probably hold the hearing on the tentative ruling by the end of June, said county Development Director Kelly Madding. The hearing will be open to anyone to testify on the issues and new information may be introduced.

Madding said the county would not have a role in any mitigation proposals put forward by the company.

"It's not appropriate for us to be involved in any discussion with those parties because the county has already issued its decision," said Madding.

O'Connor did not offer specifics on types of mitigation under consideration. He said they may be more in response to requests by the city, but noted that the two appeals were similar.

In letters to the county, Talent asked that in the future the operation address flood plain codes, that it not expand, that previous approval conditions be retained and that it comply with state and federal regulations..

"On air quality, he's well within the permit standards from the (Department of Environmental Quality)," said O'Connor. "But we'll try to address some of those indirectly."

That could be done through limiting hours of operation, said O'Connor. The county's tentative March 25 ruling called for restricted hours.

"This gives us additional time to study the case a little bit better and to do our research," said Talent Planner Mark Knox. The city will either submit written comments or testify at the hearing, he said.

A Rogue Advocates representative said he wasn't surprised by the delay.

"I'm disappointed (with the extension), but I am used to the process," said Steve Rouse. "This is just a normal legal maneuver."

Plant opponents plan to continue their efforts.

"I'll fight for this cause on behalf of my residents with my last breath and my last cent," said Hudson.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.