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A 14.7-acre property at 2459 Little Applegate Road had marijuana production without permits, vegetation removed from riparian areas and 20 to 30 cubic yards of dirt placed in the floodplain of the Little Applegate River. [Mail Tribune / Andy Atkinson]

Pot plan hits roadblock

An unusual request to downgrade the zoning at an Applegate property has been stopped in its tracks by code violations, including an unpermitted pot operation by people who dumped fill dirt in a floodplain.

Jackson County code enforcement officers found a 14.7-acre property at 2459 Little Applegate Road had marijuana production without permits, vegetation removed from riparian areas and 20 to 30 cubic yards of dirt placed in the floodplain of the Little Applegate River.

The property owners, Ted and Susan Shaffer, had requested a zoning change last August from rural residential to open-space reserve on their property, which is essentially a zoning downgrade. Usually the county receives requests to upgrade the zoning on properties. Rural residential zoning doesn't allow commercial marijuana grows.

While the county was reviewing the Shaffers' request, it received a complaint about the property.

When the code enforcement officer showed up at the Shaffers' property, the marijuana plants had been harvested and removed, but the officer noticed other problems that needed to be cleared up.

"Per our code, we cannot go forward with their zone change application while there are outstanding code violations, and they will need to resolve these issues prior to us rescheduling a Planning Commission hearing for them," said Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan.

A public hearing scheduled for Thursday at the Jackson County Planning Commission on the zoning change has been canceled.

The county won't determine a fine for the violations until the matter goes to a formal hearing. A new ordinance would raise the possible fine from $600 to $1,000 per violation. A floodplain development permit of $1,511 is also required.

So far, the Shaffers have spent $6,659 in fees for their zoning change request.

Before the county can proceed with further review of their request, the Shaffers must file a floodplain development permit for the fill dirt. The fill removal is subject to review by Oregon Department of State Lands.

DSL gets involved in fill cases where 50 cubic yards or more have been added, or if the stream is a salmon habitat, said Julie Curtis, spokesman for DSL.

"The Little Applegate River is Essential Salmon Habitat, so any amount of removal or fill would be regulated by us," Curtis stated in an email.

DSL has not received a permit application on the Shaffers' property.

Ted Shaffer declined to comment when contacted by the Mail Tribune Monday.

Shaffer filed a 44-page zoning change application with the county.

"Our OSR zone request is to allow production of one or more sustainable crops that will provide economic stability to us and contribute to the community, Jackson County and the state," the application states.

The Shaffers, in their application, maintain that their property is more suitable for an open-space reserve zoning. Other properties in the area have similar zoning, or are woodland reserve. In 1993, prior to the property being owned by the Shaffers, it had a zoning of woodland reserve.

A 2,655-square-foot house built in 2006 is located on the property, which is bisected by Little Applegate Road.

The owners indicated their "agricultural activities" will be limited in size because they will be tended by two individuals. Water for drip irrigation would be drawn from the Little Applegate.

They also wrote that because trees on the land have been lost to drought and beetles, they want to invest in replanting after they gain additional financial resources from their crop.

Their application said they want the open-space reserve zoning to take advantage of special grants that would help repair the riverbanks that have been eroded by high water in recent years. The Shaffers said the open-space reserve zoning is more appropriate for land next to a fish-bearing stream.

The Shaffers have owned the property since 2003 and have water rights to the Little Applegate River, according to their application.

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

  

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