Actor Patrick Duffy leads rock quarry opposition

Duffy leads rock quarry opposition(Oregon) Legal rumblings at a public hearing Wednesday before Jackson County commissioners underscored the difficulty in resolving a 10-year fight to build a rock quarry operation off Highway 62 north of Eagle Point.Actor Patrick Duffy, who owns property nearby and came to the meeting with two attorneys, described the four proposed rock pits on land owned by Dave Freel and Lawrence McKenzie as “four ugly holes in the hill.”Two attorneys represented Freel at the hearing, and at least one other attorney, who represented another property owner, was also present.Attorneys spent considerable time debating everything from the validity of noise studies to whether the county properly notified the public about the purpose of the hearing.Duffy urged commissioners to consider the wide-ranging impacts of placing a mining operation on the scenic Highway 62 corridor.”No matter where you live, you are impacted,” he said. “This will not be a scenic byway anymore.”About 35 people attended the hearing for the proposed project, which would be located to the east of Highway 62, just north of Butte Falls Highway. Most spoke in opposition.Because trucks from the operation would access the proposed quarry from Highway 62, the project will require review by the Oregon Department of Transportation.County commissioners have twice denied the application, but in 2002, the Land Conservation and Development Commission told the county it erred in not reviewing each rock pit site individually to determine impacts on surrounding areas.Commissioners said they will deliberate whether to expand the area of impact to surrounding properties at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. Freel’s attorney urged them to keep it to 1,500 feet.Ultimately the commissioners could rule on whether to change the zoning of the property from exclusive farm use to aggregate resource.”There’s just not much to like about this project,” said Bill Carpenter, who lives on Highway 62. He said the pits would create noise and blight, reduce property values and cause unintended consequences such as wells going dry.”The show stopper is traffic,” he said. “Is there any upside to this project at all?”Vale Womelsdorf, an Eagle Point resident who owns Toprock Trucking Co., said his pit will be out of “hard rock in the next couple of months … The rock sources we have are playing out.”He said with only a few pits left producing high-quality rock, “the price of crushed rock is going to skyrocket.”Mary Savage, who owns Crater Sand and Gravel, said the Freel pits would produce the kind of high-quality rock the valley needs for roads, bridges and foundations.Unlike agricultural crops that can move from area to area, rock pits are only found in select sites. “The pits are where they are – it’s not like a cornfield,” she said.Bill Ferguson said the quarry operation is incompatible with the area and would disrupt livestock operations.”The real issue isn’t whether we need more rock pits,” said Ferguson. “The real issue is this a good site for them.”Duffy’s attorneys told commissioners that a noise study prepared for Freel inaccurately calculated noise levels for mining and blasting at the site. Medford attorney Alan Harper said, “In short, Mr. Freel’s noise study is nonsense.”Portland attorney Paul Hribernick, who represents Freel, conceded there was an error, but even after recalculating the numbers the noise levels fell below the state Department of Environmental Quality limits.He said that berms will be built to contain noise, measures will be taken to curb dust from trucks and Freel is willing to work with ODOT to resolve traffic issues on Highway 62.He also said there would be seasonal closures of the pits ranging from three to five months a year depending on the location. However, truck traffic could continue through those months.Commissioner C.W. Smith abstained from participating or voting on the quarry issue because he has opposed it in the past. Also, he had owned property nearby, but he sold it on Wednesday, he said. His son also owns land nearby.Smith could still be technically allowed to vote on the matter if there were a tie vote. By DAMIAN MANNMail Tribune

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