Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Local Weather

Cloudy

48°F

Portland

Cloudy

Humidity: 89%

Wind: 5 mph

  • 21 Apr 2014

    Few Showers 65°F 44°F

  • 22 Apr 2014

    Thundershowers 56°F 44°F


Residents continue compost battle

School district, elected officials speak out against facility


S&H, a landscaping and recycling company, plans to build a composting and land mining site in the Stafford Hamlet, but at a design appeal hearing Dec. 20, community members expressed a collective desire that the project not go forward as planned.

Neighboring residents have long expressed concern about the noise, traffic and smell the composting facility would generate.

The new facility would be located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Southwest Borland and Stafford roads, near Stafford Primary and Athey Creek Middle School and close to numerous residences, businesses and places of worship. by: VERN UYETAKE - This former Christmas tree farm in the Stafford area is slated to become a compost facility and land mine much to the consternation of area residents.

The new composting facility will process yard debris, food scraps and manure into compost, which can be used in products sold at S&H’s retail site.

S&H plans to use aerated static pile composting, considered by many to be a state-of-the-art technique because it speeds decomposition without manipulation, using heat and moisture.

Dirt from surface mining on the composting property will also be used in S&H soil products and, along with finished compost, will be trucked from the proposed mining area to the store across the road.

A Clackamas County land-use hearings officer first approved a conditional use permit for the compost and land mine site in November 2011, but the county withdrew its decision pending reconsideration. A permit was reissued Feb. 7, 2012.

Though Ken Helm, Clackamas County hearings officer, said no person had so far approached him about the design application “in any form,” and only the design of the site is still under consideration, citizens of Tualatin, West Linn and Lake Oswego turned out in droves. Slightly less than half gave testimony, all of them opposing the application.

Common concerns centered on the risk of air, noise and water pollution for the surrounding area.

“While we generally make no comment on land use applications, and ... take no exception to legal use of permitted activities around the school district, this one certainly has gotten our attention,” said Tim Woodley, director of operations for the West Linn-Wilsonville School District. “My concern for groundwater is serious. We have public (well) water systems at both of these schools that provide water for domestic drinking water for the students there. ... This cannot be compromised. ... And then, of course, just the notion of odor. While I understand that there’s no measurable regulations around odor, kids experience it.”

John Ludlow, Clackamas County chair-elect, spoke out as well.

“I think it’s very sad that the date has passed when an appeal could be made on conditional use,” he said. “I know that the stink issue is not necessarily germane today, but it should be taken into careful consideration. ... It cannot be just cast aside because it wasn’t addressable during the conditional use permit or that the LUBA (land use board of appeals) appeal period passed. This is going to affect property values. It’s an intrusion on these people’s quiet rights and the rights to peaceful enjoyment of their property.”

The Friends of Stafford, a group of residents trying to fight the project, tried to appeal the application to LUBA earlier this year. However, it was dismissed because the group did not have enough information for the initial LUBA hearing.

Ludlow said, “There’s got to be other ways to stop this development, and I intend to find everyone that I possibly can to participate with the majority of the people behind me in sending this someplace else that will not have such a dramatic impact on our schools, on their right to be educated without the place stinking, let alone the neighborhood stinking and the traffic problems that would ensue.”

West Linn-Wilsonville School Board Member Betty Reynolds echoed his sentiments.

“I understand that we’re in a design review phase, but I’m asking ... you to look at the broader policy issue of the safety and health of over a thousand students, staff and teachers. Both schools are serviced by a well. ... Composting and mining have raised air quality issues — not only odor, but toxicity. Additional traffic raises safety concerns in an area that’s already congested. Optimal learning requires a positive learning environment, and the potential noise could detract from student achievement.”

All in all, she said, the proposed site “jeopardizes health, safety and learning environment of 1,000 staff, students and teachers. Those kids are trusting you to do the right thing, and I implore you to consider the kids.”

Rithy Chean, vice president of nearby Cambodian Buddhist Society of Oregon, joined in the chorus of condemnation, noting that theirs is the only Cambodian Buddhist temple in Oregon.

“We like our peace, we like the quietness and we like our plain air,” he said. “We don’t make noise, we don’t do much, we don’t fight, just because of our religion, and we also would like to ask the county in making the decision to consider our community as well. This is our new homeland, and we don’t have a place to go other than where we are now.”

Other issues raised by testifiers included the notion that composting food waste would attract “vectors,” birds, insects and vermin, and that airborne pollutants could have a range of adverse effects, from exacerbating asthma to causing autism.

Many said they feared the slew of problems that has plagued Nature’s Needs — a composting facility in North Plains — would also manifest at S&H’s new facility.

But Will Gehr, who works in business development at S&H, said the facility would be far less problematic than the one in North Plains because it would be state-of-the-art and any food waste used for composting would be vegetative (i.e., no meat scraps, eggs or dairy).

“We don’t anticipate taking significant amounts of even vegetative food waste,” Gehr said.

“A lot of the concerns that I heard — odor, noise, groundwater, air quality, transportation issues — those were all issues that were addressed in the CUP (conditional use permit) proceedings,” said Eric Martin, an attorney of Stoel Rives LLP representing S&H.

Martin and Gehr said they would be responding to other concerns after a two-week period for citizens to submit additional testimony and evidence ends Jan 10.

Helm ended the meeting by inviting citizens to submit their evidence and testimony for consideration.

Helm will issue his decision by Feb. 7.