Talent asphalt plant appeal scheduled for this morning

TALENT — An appeal of rulings that would allow continued operation of an asphalt plant in Talent will be heard at 9 a.m. today in the Jackson County Courthouse auditorium,10 S. Oakdale Ave.

Jackson County Hearings Officer Don Rubenstein will hear the appeals, and he will have until August to issue a final ruling. Anyone can speak at the hearings, and new evidence may be submitted.

Jackson County Development Department staff determined earlier this year that Mountain View Paving is a lawfully established, nonconforming use. Staff also determined the company could relocate some structures in the flood plain.

The city and environmental group Rogue Advocates appealed the rulings. A hearing on the nonconforming use issue will come first today.

The flood plain development hearing will commence at 1:30 p.m.

After hearing testimony and reviewing evidence, Rubenstein will determine whether the county followed its own rules when it said the plant could continue operations. His rulings could be contested before Oregon's Land Use Board of Appeals.

Residents of Mountain View Estates, across Bear Creek from the plant, will attend the sessions. They and others have complained about noise, fumes and dust arising from the asphalt plant. They're also concerned about the plant's location in the flood plain.

"We are going to try to show up in numbers," said Mountain View Estates resident Lois Schmidt. "A lot of these older people can't make it downtown. We are going to do a lot of carpooling to get there to show our support for each other."

Mountain View Paving owner Paul Meyer has operated an asphalt batch plant on the site since 2001. In 2010, a complaint about the operation was filed. The paving firm applied for county permits in 2011 but then withdrew them after favorable rulings.

Applications were submitted again in 2012. Affidavits submitted with the applications state that asphalt operations have been conducted on the 11-acre site since the 1960s.

Mountain View Paving and city representatives have discussed a proposal that would include limits on the operations and eventual sale of the land to the city, but Rogue Advocates has chosen not to participate. Both the city and the group would have needed to withdraw their complaints to reach an agreement.

Rogue Advocates termed the proposal "woefully inadequate" but didn't rule out negotiations after the hearings.

City Planner Mark Knox said the city of Talent has not pursued further discussion with Mountain View Paving. The firm's attorney, Dan O'Connor, said there has been no discussion with Rogue Advocates.

"There were concerns raised by some people in Talent about specific issues," said O'Connor. "My job is to address those concerns. I'll submit stuff into the record this week."

Rogue Advocates representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

City representatives maintain the rulings did not consider agreements between the municipality and the county governing city input on future land use. Rogue Advocates' appeal says the asphalt company is out of compliance with county regulations and that it fails to meet federal and state requirements.

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

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