S&H looks to stay at current location in Clackamas

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Compost facility protesters hold signs at the corner of Stafford and Borland roads.As a bill that would prohibit the construction of an S&H composting facility in the Stafford area makes its way through the state Legislature, the logging company has decided to suspend its Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) application and pursue an extension of its current lease at Clackamas Compost Products.

“We want to know what the outcome of the legislative debate is before we put much more money into permitting the facility,” said S&H Regulator and Compliance Director Will Gehr. "We decided to hold off and find out if we're even going to be permitted to site there."

The legislation that forced this change of direction is Senate Bill 462, which sets new rules for planned composting facilities, requiring applicants to hold a conference and public hearing before they can submit any land use applications that involve selling products and require a permit from DEQ.

At the urging of state Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, Tualatin) and state Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, the bill was amended to prohibit the construction of any compost disposal site within 1,500 feet of a school.

Certain areas of the proposed Stafford facility would be as close as 400 feet from school property.

"Senator Devlin and I both agreed that the health of our children and our community clearly isn't a partisan issue," Parrish said. "He was willing to step in and work on the bills with me."

Though the bill is currently waiting for its third reading in the House behind a "long list of bills," Parrish is confident that it will eventually pass and move back to the Senate for concurrence.

"I've been told it should receive the concurrence vote with no problems," Parrish said. "After that, it heads to the governor's desk for a signature, and hopefully he'll sign it quickly."

The proposed S&H facility, at 3036 SW Borland Road in the Stafford Triangle, would sit near Stafford Primary and Athey Creek Middle schools, and just 400 feet from Athey Creek's soccer field. It would be used to process yard debris into compost, which could then be used in products sold at S&H’s retail site, which is located across the street. It would not compost food waste such as meat scraps or other animal products.

Still, the proposed facility has been a source of controversy since a Clackamas County hearings officer approved the facility’s design application for the Borland Road site. In a series of public meetings since then, residents have expressed concerns about the facility having a negative effect on the community’s health, businesses and property values. by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Rep. Julie Parrish and Sen. Richard Devlin have spearheaded a bipartisan effort to stop the S&H compost facility from being built.

S&H attempted to quell those concerns by amending its plans for the facility, but to little avail. In a public meeting on May 15, Gehr presented the updated plan to acquire a DEQ permit that restricts composting operations to yard debris only, as opposed to the permit that allows for incidental manure to be mixed in at times.

He explained the procedure S&H would use to quell any dust or odors coming from the facility, and colleague David Miller said he was planning to move his own family to the area as soon as possible.

However, that didn't stop concerned residents from packing into the Wanker's Country Store parking lot Saturday for the "Stop the Stink-Save Stafford" rally against the facility.

Event organizer Patty McCulla estimated that the rally reached a peak attendance of between 175 and 200 people, many of whom carried signs that read, "No industrial composting and mining near our schools!" or "Industrial Composting = Health Risk."

Both Devlin and Parrish spoke at the rally, along with West Linn-Wilsonville School Board Member Betty Reynolds.

"The group here today is committed to preserving an environment that will continue to let students achieve at their top potential and to preserving the livability of this amazing community," Reynolds said in her prepared remarks.

Parrish, meanwhile, focused on both the legislative process and what she sees as the next logical step: proposing alternatives for S&H to consider if the bill passes.

"We need to come together and find a use for that property that lets S&H have financial success for their asset," Parrish said. "If it needs another piece of legislation to get a positive outcome for them on something that isn't compost related, I'm committed to doing that too."

The rally-goers, of course, were unaware that S&H had already begun working on a contingency plan.

Gehr notified DEQ last week about the company's decision to suspend its application at the Stafford location, and also submitted a new application for environmental screening at the current site in Clackamas.

Even if Clackamas County — which owns the Clackamas Compost Products property at 11620 SE Capps Road — approves a lease extension, S&H would still need an updated DEQ permit to continue operations.

"DEQ is going to be evaluating what kind of improvements need to be made, if any," Gehr said. "And that’ll give us an inclination of what it might take to keep us there.

"If it’s going to stay there, it needs to get a new permit."by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - State Sen. Richard Devlin spoke at the 'Stop the Stink-Save Stafford!' rally on June 8.

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