Jackson County denies proposal for 64-acre aggregate mine

Kevin McNamara/KTVL

Facing sustained opposition from Rogue Advocates and community members, Jackson County made its final decision to deny an application for an aggregate mining operation on nearly 64 acres a few miles north of Shady Cove on Highway 227. The application was seeking approval for mining, crushing, sizing, stockpiling, hauling, and blasting, all within close proximity to surrounding residences as close as 100 feet from the site.

The subject property is situated in the midst of numerous residential, topographical, and environmental considerations that heighten the potential for harm to residents and the environment. The site is surrounded by residential development, and many neighbors submitted comments with concerns around noise, dust, traffic, and environmental impacts. Much of the site is located on steep slopes, posing risks of landslides towards neighboring residences, scenic highway 227, and Trail Creek, which feeds into the Rogue River within a mile of the property. The property is also designated as sensitive deer and elk habitat, and throughout the public comment period the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife requested reduction of hours and seasonal operations to protect wildlife known to depend on the area.

The original application called for a much wider scale of operations, including a permanent asphalt batch plant on site, operating hours from 7 am to 7 pm six days a week throughout the entire year, and up to 195 vehicle trips per day. The applicants amended their proposal throughout the hearings process in response to an initial denial by planning staff and public opposition, cutting down the hours and months of operation and vehicle trips proposed substantially. These changes were still not enough to overcome concerns raised about the proposal, demonstrating the sensitive nature and many associated hazards of the proposed land use on the subject property.

The Hearings Officer (HO) made the County’s final decision to deny the application based on a lack of analysis on hazards related to stormwater management, geologic hazards from steep slopes, and noise related to blasting and dual-axle trucks. The HO found that deferring these analyses for a subsequent application for mining activities to the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), as the applicants had sought to do, deprived the public of their right to participate in the analysis for considering the proposed land use.

The applicants can appeal the decision to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) by August 18. If LUBA agrees with the County’s findings, significant additional geotechnical analyses would be required to support the application and demonstrate compliance with the County’s land use criteria.