The Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday, Aug. 28, approved a comprehensive plan and zoning map amendment that would allow a Columbia County mine to expand.

The ordinance approved by Commissioners Earl Fisher and Tony Hyde Wednesday clears the way for Tide Creek Rock Inc., a family-owned mine, to expand its operation once it receives a permit from the FILE PHOTO - Columbia County Commissioner Tony Hyde

“We had a pretty long hearing on it, and an even longer file,” Hyde said. “One of our major focuses with economic development is retention and expansion of our existing businesses. Yes, it’s nice to recruit, but our first and foremost is to pay attention to the businesses that are existing in the county today. So we’re happy to give them the latitude to continue mining.”

The area to be rezoned is about 56.7 acres of agricultural land adjacent to the mine, which is located near the intersection of Highway 30 and Tide Creek Road, some two miles north of Deer Island.

The Petersen family that runs the business expressed displeasure with some of the proposed conditions it must meet for the zoning change to be finalized at the board’s Aug. 14 meeting.

Al Petersen, attending the Aug. 14 meeting with longtime company heads Agnes and John Petersen, told Columbia County commissioners that several of their requirements are redundant. Tide Creek Rock Inc. has already gone through the county Planning Commission and is working with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, commonly known by its acronym, DOGAMI, on the proposed expansion, he said.

“We’ve just gone through a long process of submitting plans, topography maps, section drawings ... plans about all kinds of stuff,” Petersen said. “We just did that for you all. We are now going through the same process again to DOGAMI.”

Petersen continued, “In your final order, you’re requesting us to go through another process that requires another fee and another amount of time to approve what is regulated by DOGAMI. And I don’t think that is something that we should be required to go through a third time.”

Petersen presented copies of the draft ordinance marked up with “corrections” to the county commissioners for them to consider.

The changes were not included in the ordinance commissioners approved this week.

According to the ordinance, the Board of County Commissioners “concludes that mining should be allowed with conditions.”

Chief among the conditions is the requirement that Tide Creek Rock submit plans for and receive a site design review “as required to satisfy the requirements of the Columbia County Zoning Ordinance.”

The Petersens’ version suggested the business should simply have to submit its mining and reclamation plan to the county once DOGAMI approves it.

Hyde said he thinks Al Petersen misunderstood the conditions.

“I think that he wasn’t paying attention,” Hyde said. “Everything we asked him to do was already done. All he really had to do was make a copy and give it to them. I think he just didn’t understand the process.”

A DOGAMI official said Aug. 19 that mining operations must be approved by both the local government and the state, and his agency has no control over Columbia County’s zoning decisions.

“We have no siting authority — that is, we have no jurisdiction in how land is used,” said Bob Brinkmann, a hydrogeologist and reclamationist who covers the northern Willamette Valley. “Land use planning either falls under the county or city or whatever entity the property is within.”

Brinkmann confirmed that the Tide Creek Rock permit application with DOGAMI is undergoing final evaluation and a permit should be ready for issuance toward the end of next month.

A call to Tide Creek Rock requesting comment was not returned by press time.

The Board of County Commissioners considers recommendations from the Planning Commission on proposed changes to the county’s comprehensive plan, but it is ultimately responsible for deciding whether to approve them, as well as what conditions to set.

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