Smaller quarries will face regulation
Washington County will regulate smaller quarries that produce sand, gravel and crushed rock for construction and road work.
County commissioners approved an ordinance, which will apply to quarries that produce less than 2 million tons of aggregate annually — equivalent to 100,000 truckloads.
Larger quarries, designated as "significant," already are regulated by the county and must obtain state permits. But they are producing less for road-building and other construction in a fast-growing county.
Washington County led northwest Oregon with 2.5 million tons of aggregate produced last year, according to the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. That total is up from 2 million tons back in 2010, during the economic downturn, but far less than the 4.5 million tons produced back in 2000.
Much material is already hauled from Columbia County; there is an active quarry in Washington County's southeast corner.
The unanimous vote came despite an objection by John Malnerich, owner of Westside Rock in Forest Grove, who said the ordinance would lead to a proliferation of smaller quarries with less regulation.
"All of a sudden we're hurting for rock and you're willing to make all kind of changes," said Malnerich, whose quarry already falls under county regulation.
"I'm against all of the new quarries you want to put in."
Later, Malnerich clarified his statement to say that his concern was about the quality of the material from the new quarries. The ordinance does not specifically regulate that aspect, but he said the county and others should be aware of what they are buying.
The ordinance takes effect Nov. 24. It applies in exclusive forest and conservation zones.
Under the new ordinance, public notice and review would be required for conditional use permits, and the county can impose a wide range of restrictions to protect neighboring lands. Among them: Livability — including hours of operation, noise and air quality — water areas, wells, traffic, roads and bridges.
Although neither testified at a hearing of the commissioners on Sept. 5, two people raised concerns based on their experience with Baker Rock Resources' operation during a planning commission meeting on Aug. 2. But that company's operation is subject to county regulation for larger quarries.
Under a state law passed two decades ago, counties were required to identify larger "significant" quarry sites under a state requirement for protection of natural features. The law's chief advocate was the Oregon Concrete and Aggregate Producers Association, which sought to limit land-use appeals of identified sites.
Adds clarification by a witness who testified at the Sept. 5 hearing.