LUBA ruling upholds Baker Rock proposal
By HANNAH HOFFMAN
Of the News-Register
The Land Use Board of Appeals has upheld a 2-1 ruling by the Yamhill County commissioners that the gravel deposit Baker Rock Resources proposes to strip from 175 acres on Grand Island meets state standards for significance.
That means the commissioners can convene a public hearing on the second half of Baker Rock's application, to take testimony on whether to then allow the mining to proceed. The board plans to reopen the hearing process at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, in Room 32 at the county courthouse, located at 535 N.E. Fifth St.
However, Protect Grand Island Farms, a coalition of mostly small, organic farmers opposing a new quarry, still has the option of challenging the adverse LUBA ruling in the Oregon Court of Appeals.
The coalition has 30 days. Spokeswoman Kris Bledsoe said Thursday that it had not yet decided.
Oregon law requires quarry applicants to document a gravel deposit at least 25 feet thick to win approval on Class 1 or Class 2 farmland, and the Baker Rock site carries a Class 2 rating.
The deposit averages 44 feet in thickness. However, it is divided into layers averaging a respectively 21 and 23 feet, separated by a layer of clay averaging nine feet.
The question before LUBA was whether a deposit divided into two layers, neither qualifying on its own, was sufficient under the law. And LUBA ruled it was.
In doing so, it upheld Commissioners Kathy George and Leslie Lewis, who reached the same conclusion. Colleague Mary Stern cast the dissenting vote, taking the other side on the two-layer issue.
At the county hearing, geologist Chris Lidstone testified in favor of Baker Rock. Geologist Mark Reed countered for Protect Grand Island.
In its appeal, Protect Grand Island also challenged Lidstone's findings on the grounds he had only bored nine test holes and that wasn't enough.
But LUBA said nine test holes seemed more than enough. It said it found nothing in Oregon law or opposition testimony to support a finding to the contrary.
LUBA also came down firmly on the county's side on the main element of challenge - the sufficiency of the deposit. It said the county was duty bound to consider all of the gravel underlying the site proposed for mining, and the county had done that.
Given the information in the hearing record, LUBA said, the commissioners' decision to consider the 44 feet of gravel as a single deposit made sense. There was no reason not to consider the interspersed clay as nothing more than "overburden" requiring removal during the mining process.
The board said its mandate did not extend to substituting its judgment for the county's, only to deciding whether the county's was sufficiently grounded in the evidence. And it was, the board ruled.