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Bill aims to block Stafford composting facility

Rep. Julie Parrish's bill would ban sites within 1,500 feet of schools


by: TIDINGS FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Residents against a proposed composting and land mining operation have posted signs throughout Stafford.In an effort to halt a controversial composting facility in the Stafford area, Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, has stepped on board and is taking legislative action.

Parrish submitted a bill on Monday that would prohibit the construction of any compost disposal site within 1,500 feet of a school.

The S&H facility, planned at 3036 SW Borland Road in the Stafford triangle, would sit near Stafford Primary and Athey Creek Middle schools. It would be used to process yard debris, wood waste, vegetative food waste, produce waste, vegetative restaurant waste, vegetative food processor byproducts and crop waste into compost, which could then be used in products sold at S&H’s retail site, which is located across the street. It would not compost food waste such as meat scraps or other animal products.

While the county approved the project in February, S&H still must obtain additional permits from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

At a February open house hosted by the company, representatives from S&H said the facility would not stink, and that it would not have “rotting carcasses” or “smelly meat.” Yet nearby residents and West Linn-Wilsonville School Board members have expressed an array of concerns, the odor of the facility being just one of them.

In response, Parrish put House Bill 3527 together.

“As a general rule, I am very pro-land use and property rights for landowners,” Parrish said. “But there is a problem in our land use laws that would let this type of facility be sited directly next to schools.”

According to West Linn-Wilsonville School Board Chairman Keith Steele, a total of 1,100 students and 100 district staff members are within about 1,600 feet of the site, and the closest compost pile to Stafford Primary would be within about 1,300 feet of the school. In addition to the two schools, the district's operations center is nearby.

During a DEQ informational meeting at Stafford Primary School on April 16, Steele echoed Parrish’s concerns in a prepared statement.

“It’s well understood that children have a lower tolerance than adults for the odors, dust and bio-aerosols that will be produced from such a composting facility,” Steele said. “These kids are the very definition of a sensitive population, and as such the DEQ has a legal obligation to protect the most sensitive among them. Let’s face it — in this particular case you’re the only ones who can.”

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Parrish

It’s that latter notion that Parrish hopes to prove wrong with this bill, although she admitted it might be a long shot.

Her bill would actually be an amendment to another already making its way through the legislative process. The other bill, Senate Bill 462A, already passed on the Senate side and was scheduled for a public hearing in the House Committee on Land Use today, May 9. Senate Bill 462A sets new rules for planned composting facilities, requiring applicants to hold a conference and public hearing before they can submit any land use applications that involve selling products and require a permit from DEQ.

Parrish's version of the bill would prohibit such facilities if they're close to a school.

"If it can get amended into the Senate bill, and the House decides to pass the Senate bill, then the Senate bill would have to go back to the Senate for concurrence," Parrish said. "Which I believe we could get over there."

From there, it would go on to Gov. John Kitzhaber for a signature. With an emergency clause attached, the bill would go into effect after 90 days, but Parrish is looking into the possibility of the law being enacted immediately after passing.

"At the end of the day, it's a long shot," Parrish said. "But I've also learned that the things you think aren't possible sometimes are." The three-page bill is simple in nature, and states that “the governing body of a county or its designee may not grant land use approval … to establish or modify a disposal site for composting if the site: a) is within 1,500 feet of a school; and b) requires a permit issued by the Department of Environmental Quality.”

Under those statutes, S&H would be in clear violation with this project. When asked about the bill on Monday, S&H spokesman Will Gehr said he was unaware of the proposed bill and had no comment.

West Linn-Wilsonville School District Director of Operations Tim Woodley also had not heard about Parrish's bill on Monday, and thus also declined to comment on the bill.

"We're on record that this may not be the best idea for various reasons," Woodley said of the proposed facility. "Any help the district, the parents, the students could get would be useful."

The S&H project has three phases. At first, the compost facility would sit on the south side of the site, with mining happening in the north portion of the property — closest to Athey Creek Middle School and Stafford Primary School. At some point, those uses would swap, with composting moving to the north end of the property and mining switching to the south.

The last phase of the project involves reclamation and redevelopment of the land. S&H plans to eventually sell the property for commercial or residential redevelopment.

Aside from the safety of students, residents have also expressed concerns about the noise and traffic emanating from the site.

"For the sheer amount of emails I've received from community members," Parrish said, "there's not one person other than the folks at S&H who want this thing to be built in Stafford."

S&H has scheduled a neighborhood information meeting at 5:30 p.m. on May 15 at the Rolling Hills Community Church, 3550 SW Borland Road in the Courtyard Room.

For more information about the bill, visit leg.state.or.us/13reg/measures/hb3500.dir/hb3527.intro.html.

To contact Parrish, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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