Thanks to what a local land use attorney calls “poorly written” land use code in Lane County, there’s no end in sight for the gravel mining of Parvin Butte. The 600-foot butte continues to be quarried by Lost Creek Rock Products (LCRP); the Dexter and Lost Creek neighbors who protest the mining have lost some ground in a recent Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) decision. LUBA decided Feb. 6 that LCRP does not need to undergo a site review in its mining operation at Parvin Butte.
For the neighbors, this means that the county will not regulate any of the disturbances caused by the mining, such as noise, dust and increased traffic. With no site review, the neighbors will not have the opportunity to participate in public input, which would allow them to comment on the regulation of the mining activities. Neighbors have complained of explosions that scare humans, pets and livestock and of speeding trucks on their rural roads.
“The decision says that the way the code is written, they don’t have to do any site review at all,” says Dan Stotter, the attorney for the neighbors. “But the language is very poorly written, and it is ambiguous as to whether site review is required or not required if there’s a 200-foot buffer.”
This 200-foot buffer around the mining site has served as a source of contention in the case. Last year, Lane County Hearings Official Gary Darnielle decided that LCRP’s truck traffic passing through the 200-foot buffer counted as mining activity within the buffer, which triggered site review.
The recent LUBA decision invalidated that ruling, allowing LCRP, a project of the McDougal brothers and Greg Demers, to continue their mining operations without site review.
Stotter says he will petition to the Oregon Court of Appeals, where the debate will continue as to whether or not site review is required. “The neighbors have to challenge this issue,” Stotter says. “They’re seeking to have some control. Without site review, this is a completely unregulated operation from the point of land use.”