The Grant County Court adopted a county ordinance that will protect landowners’ rights near a significant aggregate site.
Shannon Springer, the county planning director, discussed with the court Jan. 8 the updated ordinance to be added to the Grant County Comprehensive Plan Amendment Ordinance of January 2020. The ordinance includes an updated Economic, Social, Environmental and Energy analysis adopted by the county court on Nov. 13.
The adoption of the ESEE was to comply with a remand from the Land Use Board of Appeals, which upheld the county’s decision to have a 5© level of protection of the aggregate site, rather than the 5(b) level requested by the Oregon Department of Transportation, which will use the quarry.
“The county court approved the significant aggregation site with the 5© level of protection, went through the process and created an ordinance indicating it had a 5© level of protection,” Springer said. “ODOT appealed the decision to the Land use Board of Appeals. What they (county attorneys) came back with is they (LUBA) remanded the case to the county court because the ESEE analysis did not address all of the impacts that could possibly occur to the aggregate site.”
There were many testimonies in the records from the county planning commission and county court hearings that addressed matters related to ESEE, according to Springer. The problem was that the information did not get reintroduced into the specific ESEE analysis.
“As a result of the LUBA remand, the ESEE analysis was updated to reflect all of the things that were talked about in the testimony of the hearings,” Springer said.
After the amended final order on Nov. 19, which accepted the amended ESEE analysis, the county waited to make sure ODOT was not going to appeal, Springer said.
Since the comprehensive plan is an ordinance, it has to be changed by an ordinance, which was approved by the court on Jan. 8.
This case began when ODOT submitted a request to amend the county comprehensive plan and add their 20.26 acres, commonly known as the Meadowbrook Quarry, as a significant aggregate site. This would allow the operators of the site to avoid seeking planning commission approval to operate on the site.
The level of protection led to the dispute. ODOT was requesting a level 5(b) designation, which would limit conflicting adjacent uses to protect quarry operations.
While this wouldn’t completely prevent landowners from construction or development in the 1,500 feet buffer area around the site, the operators of the rock pit would have had a greater say regarding the use of land. According to Springer, the 5(b) designation would also require anybody who builds a home or any kind of recreational user facility to sign a declaration acknowledging the downsides of being next to a rock pit and limiting complaints because of that acknowledgment.
Grant County Court instead approved a 5© level of protection for the designation, which would fully allow conflicting uses in the buffer zone despite possible impacts to quarry operations. This would help protect neighboring land owners’ property rights, Springer said.
“I think it’s really a victory for private property rights, and I am glad that LUBA upheld our decision,” said Grant County Commissioner Jim Hamsher.
With the case being upheld by LUBA, other communities around Oregon can look at this case if they go into the same situation.
“Typically land use decisions at the county level don’t really set legal precedents, but when something goes to LUBA and the decision is not overturned, then it gives other folks in our county or across the state a prop up,” Springer said. “‘OK, I can cite this LUBA decision from Grant County v. ODOT where they justified a 5© level of protection and were successful.’”