Residents along Tonquin Road urge Wilsonville to oppose project

by: JOSH KULLA - City of Wilsonville officials are concerned about the potential impact a proposed Tonquin Road rock quarry might have on Day Road, shown at its intersection with Grahams Ferry Road. A controversial proposal to open a rock quarry off Tonquin Road northwest of Wilsonville is once again drawing heated opposition from nearby residents concerned about traffic and the environmental impact.

Located just off Tonquin Road near Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue’s training center, the proposed quarry has been the subject of an intense legal battle since it was first approved and then subsequently overturned by the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) and the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Now, Tonquin Holdings LLC, which belongs to Portland-area developer Sean Keys, is back with a new application and strategy for obtaining approval for the project. And like the first time around, opponents are mobilized to fight what they view as a moneymaking operation that will damage their property values as well as local roads and the environment.

“For Tonquin Holdings it’s about money and it’s only about money,” said Jos Jacobs, who owns property directly adjacent to the proposed quarry site. “All the experts they provide you with, all the testimony they provide you with, when they contact you, it’s all about money, and you have to take that into account.”

Jacobs and more than a dozen other quarry opponents attended Thursday’s Wilsonville City Council meeting in hopes of enlisting the city as they try to halt the quarry a second time.

Councilors expressed concerns over the impact on Wilsonville’s Day Road with the addition of up to 450 heavy trucks a day carrying aggregate from the proposed quarry. But they also questioned the impact on local heavy industry, including companies like Wilsonville Concrete, if a nearby source of raw material was closed down.

“I’m not suggesting don’t protect our community, I think we should do that,” said Councilor Richard Goddard. “But there are some who may interpret the work we’re doing here as getting in the way of that development. I wouldn’t want this discussion to be interpreted wrongly.”

For Wilsonville officials, the issue is familiar.

Tonquin Holdings received a conditional use permit from Clackamas County in 2010 to operate the Poole Quarry. That approval came with more than 130 conditions attached and subsequently was successfully appealed by opponents.

In February 2012, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld an earlier LUBA decision to overturn the county’s approval. Earlier this year, however, Tonquin Holdings resubmitted an application to Clackamas County seeking an entirely new means of gaining approval for the quarry.

Instead of a conditional use permit, said Wilsonville Planning Director Chris Neamtzu, this time the applicants are seeking a comprehensive plan map amendment. Specifically, the application seeks to designate the quarry property as a statewide planning Goal 5 significant resource site with regard to rock and aggregate minerals.

“The application includes a zone map amendment to add a mineral and aggregate overlay district and mineral and aggregate zone,” Neamtzu said. “It would provide all the entitlements for that operation.”

What really has opponents up in arms, however, is a provision in the application asking for a 1,500-foot significant resource overlay zone around the Tonquin Holdings property. This would directly affect surrounding property owners who fear ongoing blasting and truck traffic will harm nearby businesses and permanently damage their property  JOSH KULLA - Opponents of a proposed rock quarry point to a predicted increase in truck traffic on Tonquin Road as just one reason Clackamas County should deny the application by Tonquin Holdings and developer Sean Keys.

Opponents also said the quarry, if approved, would significantly damage Metro’s planned Tonquin Ice Age Trail for hikers and bicyclists, several miles of which pass through Wilsonville.

“Who knows how many acres of new land they’ll be mining and excavating,” said Tonquin Road resident Lee Patrick. “I’d say this is going to be a lot worse than what you’re thinking.”

In 2010 the city submitted a letter to the county planning department based on concerns over traffic impacts on Day Road, Grahams Ferry Road and other streets, as well as the impact to natural resources in the Tonquin Geologic corridor that runs through the northern Willamette Valley.

This time, the city once again plans to raise similar concerns with the county planning commission, who will hold a public hearing Sept. 16 to discuss the matter and make a recommendation to the board of county commissioners. Because the application seeks a comprehensive plan map amendment, the county commission has the final say in the matter and will hear arguments at an Oct. 16 public hearing.

“The main concern you’ll find in the letter staff has drafted really involves transportation,” Neamtzu said, noting that staff analysis of the application is limited to 1,500 feet from the site itself.

Nonetheless, he said, the city hopes to convince the county that the impact of the project extends far beyond 1,500 feet to include the city directly. He emphasized the city is not formally opposing the application. Instead, it is asking that the developer mitigate any adverse impact on city roads.

“We feel it’s important to understand that traffic on our streets, it may be it’s OK,” Neamtzu said. “But if there is a problem it probably should be looked at as part of this development review to try and mitigate any problems.”

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