The group Save TV Butte formed in 2015 when Oakridge residents and land-use watchdogs became aware that the 46-acre scenic butte near the rural community was slated to become a gravel mine. At the time, Save TV Butte held a protest in front of King Estate Winery calling for a boycott with signs reading, “Wines not Mines.”
Four years later, Old Hazeldell Quarry, financially backed by Ed King of King Estate Winery, still seeks to mine TV Butte. King Estate itself doesn’t have a financial stake in Old Hazeldell.
This month, the land’s defenders scored a victory with Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), albeit a procedural victory that may only be the latest step in a long fight.
Kathy Pokorny lives a half mile from the proposed gravel mine. “We are very excited that we did win at LUBA again,” she says. “We keep thinking that we will have complete success at some point.”
Pokorny says her biggest concern is the elk herd in the area. “TV Butte is their calving area,” she says. “People say they will move somewhere else. Why should they have to?” She adds that elk are “more sensitive to disturbances than people think.”
Pokorny says that she’s been told the noise will be negligible from the mine. “But we can sometimes hear the rock pit in front of Hill’s Creek Dam, and that’s a good mile and half as the crow flies,” she says. “It’s just frustrating that people can come from another area and try to make a mess of our area.” She also worries about possible decline in air quality due to silica dust.
Longtime land-use advocate Kevin Matthews works with Save TV Butte to protect the hill. He says the LUBA victory stems from that required notice was not given to the Department of Land Conservation and Development, and the county should have put the decision off and do a “properly noticed hearing.”
That hearing, Matthews says, would have been before the current Lane County Commission, not the previous, more conservative one with Gary Williams and Sid Leiken who lost to Heather Buch and Joe Berney, respectively.
Matthews says the previous commission “approved the application — despite the lack of required notice — and LUBA said because they failed to give notice, the decision is invalid.”
Old Hazeldell has 21 days to bring the decision before the Oregon Board of Appeals. Matthews says that’s rare in his experience. Otherwise, if the applicant requests, it would go back to Lane County “with a new remand process, new comment and hearings, etc.”
However, it appears that Old Hazeldell plans to take the LUBA decision to court.
Quarry spokesman Phil Donovan says, “We believe the county followed the required process and made the correct local decision, and we expect to defend the county’s decision before the Oregon Court of Appeals.” He adds, “We’re mindful that siting an environmentally safe quarry is an exhaustive public process. We all want to get this right and are willing to do the work required and respect the process.”
“We are not going to give up,” Pokorny says. “We will keep working on it. It’s a hardship for some of us. We are not wealthy folks, with some of us digging into social security and savings.” ν
Save TV Butte periodically updates its Facebook page, Facebook.com/SaveTVButte, which has a link to an ongoing GoFundMe fundraiser. More information on the quarry project is at Old-Hazeldell.Squarespace.com.