Smoothing Things Over
TALENT — Mountain View Paving's asphalt plant has complied with Jackson County's requirements to remove structures and materials that were erected after 2003.
Operations and structures in place before 2003 were deemed a legal, non-conforming use in September by Hearings Officer Donald Rubenstein, whose ruling required that subsequent improvements be removed.
Mountain View in October signed a stipulated order with the county that required owner Paul Meyer to remove the non-approved changes by Dec. 25. County officials inspected the site in early January.
"He had removed everything but a small sand bunker and a little pile of pallets that were on top of that. He has since removed that," said County Development Services Director Kelly Madding.
"At this point everything that he was required to do is done. Because he didn't meet his timeline, he will have to pay a $600 fine, the minimum for an enforcement infraction," Madding said.
Besides physical changes, the firm also needed to apply for a floodplain development permit. That request is being processed, Madding said.
The plant sits on 11 acres just south of Interstate 5's Exit 21 between Bear Creek and the freeway.
Environmental group Rogue Advocates, which has appealed Rubenstein's ruling to Oregon's Land Use Board of Appeals, had contested an April county ruling that the operation was legal. Rogue Advocates had a Jan. 28 deadline to file its petition in the case. A date for the appeal hearing hasn't been set.
Neighbors in Mountain View Estates across the creek from the plant have raised concerns about the operation's impact on air quality and Bear Creek in the event of flood. Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality has found that the plant complies with air quality standards.
Under the county order, all materials and structures south of an east-west line on the property had to be removed, as they did not appear in 2003 aerial photographs. No materials or structures were on the site south of red flags marking the line when a reporter and photographer toured the site Thursday. Last spring, piles of materials and equipment were in the area.
In addition, an office building was moved outside the floodway. Loading silos, a 70-by-46-foot maintenance shop constructed from cargo containers and a tank used for holding waste materials were also removed.
"Everything that they requested to be moved is gone," said Meyer.
Meyer said he wasn't sure initially whether the sand bunker was inside or outside of the south area. Removal of the bunker was done the day the infraction was found and took just 30 minutes, said Meyer's attorney, Dan O'Connor.
Meyer estimated he spent about $15,000 to move or remove equipment and materials, including $10,000 to dismantle the shop. He said the work impacted normal operations at the plant.
"It hindered us a little bit, but you work around it," said Meyer.
Meyer also took three truckloads of old tires to recyclers.
"I found tires that were on the property that didn't belong to me," said Meyer.
Eventually Meyer said he would likely seek permits to build a 30-by-40-foot maintenance shop and to reinstall the silos.
—We'll reapply to put the silos back, which is a benefit to the neighbors," said Meyer.
With silos in place, 12 to 15 tons of asphalt can be dumped into a truck at one time for 10 seconds, compared to the current rate of one ton dumped in 10 seconds. That would reduce noise and dust arising from the operation, said Meyer.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.