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Landfill decision will wait

Land use — Commission delays deliberations in order to address questions over ex parte contact


McMINNVILLE — The decision whether Waste Management will be allowed to expand its Riverbend Landfill facility was put on hold last week when questions about the Board of Commissioners’ contact with outside individuals on the contentious issue surfaced once again.

On advice of Todd Sadlo, assistant county counsel, the trio of commissioners voted unanimously to reopen the public record to allow rebuttal after they each entered written statements into the record, then spoke briefly before the packed commission chambers.GARY ALLEN - Decision delayed - Commissioner Stan Primozich discusses ex parte contact during Thursday's meeting in McMinnville.

Chairman Allen Springer and Commissioners Mary Starrett and Stan Primozich reiterated comments made at a marathon meeting held March 12 before a packed house at the McMinnville Civic Center, insisting their contacts with both sides of the issue were appropriate.

“So, there’s been pressure from either side, don’t kid yourself,” Springer said.

Waste Management wants to add 29 acres to its decades-old facility west of McMinnville. With approval, construction of Module 11 in the northwest corner of the landfill, between the existing facility and Highway 18, would begin in summer 2016 and allow for an additional 9.5 years of operation under current disposal rates. An enlarged vegetation buffer would be added between the landfill and the highway, the facility would be designed to withstand a 9.0 earthquake and an improved gas collection system would be installed to reduce odors from the landfill, company officials have said.

The commission is charged with considering an appeal of the expansion by the county planning commission in January. If the appeal is denied, the expansion application could go forward, but only if the opponents don’t hold form and seek satisfaction at a higher level, such as the state Land Use Board of Appeals or the Oregon Court of Appeals. The Board of Commissioners could decide to remand the expansion application back to the planning commission for further consideration. The third scenario would be to reject the expansion application altogether. That would surely trigger an appeal by the proponents

The commission will take up the issue when the hearing is reopened at 10 a.m. Thursday in the commission hearing room.

The issue of ex parte contact was first breached at the March 12 meeting. Jeffrey Kleinman, attorney for the appellants, argued that Springer’s ex parte contacts were more extensive than declared and said procedure was that he should be allowed to question the commissioner. Sadlo said the commission’s procedures didn’t allow such an inquisition, but Kleinman was unthwarted and began to query Springer about his relationship with Waste Management. Springer fired back that as the commission’s economic liaison he had the right to meet with Waste Management about economic issues.

The primary opponents to the expansion, and the landfill in general – Friends of Yamhill County and the Stop the Dump Coalition – generally have crafted their arguments along land use and environmental grounds, including repeated objections to the landfill being expanded closer to the Yamhill River and its tributaries, pollution of the flood plain around the facility, its proximity to Highway 18 and its continued impacts on farm land.

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