A hearings officer last week reversed the decision of the Clackamas County Planning Department to allow a controversial composting facility in Redland, saying that the applicant failed to demonstrate that operation is “necessary for the operation of the farm to obtain a profit.”

A parade of opponents lambasted the plan for several hours during a July 19 hearing, forcing Clackamas County to extend the appeal proceedings to another marathon session on July 26.

Unfortunately, said Hearings Officer Kenneth D. Helm, all of the “genuine, heartfelt, and often well researched” testimony about noise, dust, odor, traffic safety, groundwater and surface water impacts weren’t relevant to whether the proposal was a “farm use.” Potential environmental impacts such as to fish, to the on-site stream and Clear Creek were also considered irrelevant.

In a final order dated Sept. 17 that was revised on Sept. 19, Helm said Clackamas County’s planning director found that composting is accepted farming practice, and also found that using off-site green feedstock material is considered an accepted farming practice, primarily based on the applicant’s

explanation, his experience working with farmers, land-use requests in the county and some statewide information.

But Helm found farmers in the Redland area, and most parts of the state, have not embraced the use of compost to replace traditional fertilizers.

“More particularly, the evidence does not show that any significant number of farmers are relying on compost to the extent that they need to import green feedstock in order to satisfy their needs,” Helm said.

The Stroupes have the right to appeal the decision to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals before Oct. 10. Their representative at S&H Logging was out of the office this week and not available for comment.

“If they do appeal, our attorneys believe we would win again, but it would cost as much—if not more—to fight their appeal as it did to fund our own. If the Stroupes appeal, we will have to raise about $20,000,” said Jon Benjamin of the Protect Redland Community Action Group.

Even if the Stroupes do not appeal to LUBA, Benjamin said neighbors need to “remain vigilant” for activity on the property.

“We also must continue to work to close loopholes in land-use laws to ensure there will never be an industrial-sized compost or biomass facility in our neighborhood,” he said.

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