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Controversial asphalt plant wins county planning approval

A tentative Jackson County Planning Division staff decision issued Thursday gives Mountain View Paving approval for its alteration from concrete to asphalt batch plant use.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality had issued a warning for the plant to stop operating by March 20 because it lacked local land-use authority. Thursday’s decision ends the issue, said a DEQ official.

“In this case Mountain View Paving got a warning letter with an opportunity to correct,” said Claudia Davis, DEQ western region air quality manager. Evidence submitted by the firm Thursday showed the issue had been resolved, Davis said.

Asphalt operations began at the site along Bear Creek east of Talent in 2001. The previous concrete operation was a legal, nonconforming use because it existed prior to the establishment of current zoning, which would not allow such operations. The latest ruling confirms that the current operation retains the nonconforming status.

Appeals of the decision can be filed by March 31. An appeal would be heard by a county hearings officer. Mountain View Paving and Rogue Advocates have battled over the legitimacy of the operation through the courts and land-use process since 2012.

Rogue Advocates President Steve Rouse said Friday he will review the ruling further before deciding whether the group will file an appeal.

The plant's adverse impact on surrounding properties was not greater than the previous concrete operation, the 18-page ruling declared.

Concrete production had a far more significant adverse impact on neighboring properties compared to the current operation, Howard DeYoung, who operated the concrete plant, said in a statement submitted for consideration.

Neighbors were constantly complaining about dust, exhaust and noise from the site, DeYoung said. Truck traffic also was greater during concrete production, he said.

Annual production at the concrete site totaled at least 40,000 tons per year, DeYoung said. County staff has found that annual production at the asphalt plant has been 18,270 tons.

The county's ruling also determined the alteration did not constitute an expansion of the previous nonconforming use, the application did not involve a land-use change, and the city of Talent’s contention that the concrete and asphalt plants are different usages was not valid.

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

Jackson County Planning approves asphalt use at Mountain View Paving. Mail Tribune File Photo