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Parvin in Art and Court

In Eugene, the Maude Kerns Art Center is hosting a one-week exhibit of poetry and photographs, “Silent Witness: Parvin Butte,” calling attention to the destruction of scenic Parvin Butte by developers. Out in Dexter, the mining of the butte continues, and in county and agency offices the question of just what to do about the butte lingers. 

The Dexter/Lost Valley community that surrounds the butte says loud blasts of dynamite and heavy equipment on roads are the latest problems connected with Lost Creek Rock Products’ quarry mining. They are also concerned about effects on a salmon-bearing stream and other environmental issues as well as the loss of a butte that has provided a scenic backdrop to the community of Dexter and the nearby reservoir. 

The natural and recreational resources in the 30-mile area around Dexter Lake generate about $50 million a year, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Almost 100,000 people a year come to visit the area, a study by the agency says.

Commissioner Faye Stewart says that he thinks some of the neighbors’ concerns could be addressed under the nuisance ordinance. It wouldn’t halt the mining activities, he says but it could put limits on them and provide some relief. Stewart says he has asked county staff to look into the timeline and costs it would take to change the Lane County Code to make site review mandatory.

Prior to a vote by the Lane County commissioners in May, county staff had been arguing that site review was required at Parvin and that LCRP was mining illegally without site review. In a 3-2 vote pitting the conservative majority against progressives Rob Handy and Pete Sorenson, the board voted to not appeal the Parvin Butte decision by the county hearings officer, but that the county would appear in response to an appeal by a defendant in the case.

Attorney Dan Stotter, who represents the Parvin Butte neighbors, alleges that county attorney Stephen Dingle “misrepresented the whole issue of enforcement,” when he spoke about the possibility of having to pay attorneys’ fees if the county took the case further to the appeals court or to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA).

“Is it possible? The real question is ‘Is it likely?’” Stotter says, comparing the argument to buying the casket before anyone is dead.

Stotter called the vote by commissioners Stewart, Sid Leiken and Jay Bozievich not to appeal “a political decision” and says the lack of action by the county at Parvin Butte is an example of discretion in enforcement. 

“Discretion can be exercised in ways that are unfair,” Stotter says. “These guys are blowing up a mountain and being given immunity.” He adds, “Millionaires, resource extractors, donors to their campaigns are hands-off to these commissioners.” 

Parvin Butte advocates have invited the community to come to Maude Kerns to learn more about the butte through art and poetry. In response to the invitation to the volunteer members of the Lane County Planning Commission to attend the art show, Lane County Planning Director Kent Howe sent out an email warning the LCPC that if they attended the show “please coordinate among yourselves to avoid having a quorum of the LCPC present and raising concerns about conflicting with Oregon’s Public Meetings Law.”

The LCPC is an appointed advisory board, not a decision-making body. 

“Silent Witness: Parvin Butte” wraps up with a poetry reading and closing reception 7 pm Friday, May 18, at Maude Kerns Art Center, 910 East 15th Avenue.