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Asphalt plant faces March 3 deadline

TALENT — Mountain View Paving needs to obtain land-use approval for its asphalt plant from Jackson County by March 3 or shut down operations.

Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality Friday sent plant owner Paul Meyer a warning letter with opportunity for correction that must meet the deadline. The plant could also relocate to another site with land-use approval.

Dan O’Connor, attorney for Mountain View, said the county could issue the required approvals by the deadline based on determinations already made.

“I’ll be pushing for that. It’s up to the county if they want to retain the jobs, basically,” said O’Connor. “Fifteen family-wage jobs are gone if it shuts down.”

Since 2011, the legality of the plant to operate as a grandfathered use has been contested through the land-use process by Rogue Advocates, joined at times by nearby neighbors and the city of Talent. Neighbors of the plant, located on Bear Creek by Interstate 5's Exit 21, have complained about odors and noise.

Jackson County Development Services informed DEQ Jan. 13 that the plant did not have land-use approval to operate at the location, states the letter from Wayne Kauzlarich, natural resources specialist with the Medford DEQ Air Quality Program.

Conditions of Mountain View Paving’s air quality permit include “the permit is not valid … at any location where the operation of the permitee’s processes ... would be in violation of any local land use or zoning law.”

Mountain View Paving’s violation was placed in Class II. A Class I violation is the most serious, while a Class III is the least serious.

O’Connor expressed frustration that Rogue Advocates has appealed all previous rulings on the plant’s legality, slowing the approval process.

“I guess it’s a little frustrating in the sense we get approval, then Rogue Advocates appeals everything. Then they say we don’t have the approval,” said O’Connor. “They just keep appealing everything that is issued.”

Oral arguments on a Rogue Advocates appeal of Donald Rubenstein’s October 2014 ruling on issues remanded by Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals to Jackson County will be heard before that board Feb. 19 in Salem.

The LUBA remand came after Rogue Advocates appealed Rubenstein’s fall 2013 ruling that said the plant could operate in the configuration that existed in 2002, but that subsequent updates were not legal.

Jackson County Hearings Officer James R. Dole ruled Dec. 30 that the plant did not have land-use approval. Dole issued fines totaling $2,400 for four land-use violations, including lack of a permit for establishment of the operation.

Dole ruled that only $400 would be levied if the firm submitted applications to correct the situations by Jan. 29. The applications were filed by the deadline.

Mountain View Paving has contended that the plant is a pre-existing, nonconforming use at the site. A concrete batch plant operated there from the 1960s before change to an asphalt batch plant occurred in 2001.

Rubenstein’s October ruling on the remand said the firm needed to submit a new application to determine whether it is a lawful nonconforming use.

O’Connor said Rubenstein’s 2013 ruling determined the conversion did not have any significant adverse effect on neighbors and therefore Jackson County could issue the required land-use approval before March 3.

Jackson County Development Services Director Kelly Madding had no comment on O’Connor’s contention that approval could be given by March 3. By statute, the county needs to issue a ruling within 120 days of the application filing dates. On a nonconforming change of use, the department attempts to issue rulings in 95 days, Madding said. 

Attempts to contact Rogue Advocates President Steve Rouse were unsuccessful.

A September 2013 DEQ inspection found that the plant was not violating air quality standards. Continued permit violations after March 3 would be referred to the department’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement. Civil penalties could be assessed.

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

Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality has given Mountain View Paving a March 3 deadline for obtaining the necessary permits or operations must shut down. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch