Lease for composting at Clackamas facility renewed on month-to-month basis

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Compost facility protesters hold signs at the corner of Stafford and Borland roads June 8 at Wanker's Country Store parking lot during the Stop the Stink-Save Stafford rally.A bill signed by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber last June may have ended any talk of a composting facility in the Stafford area, but S&H Landscape Supplies & Recycling never intended to abandon the property.

If Clackamas County approves recent modifications to the S&H land use permit, the company will use the property — located at 3036 Borland Road in the Stafford triangle — for soil mining operations beginning in the spring.

“The original plan was for composting and soil mining,” S&H regulator and compliance director Will Gehr said. “The composting went away, and what’s left is the mining.”

The controversial composting facility would have operated near Stafford Primary School and Athey Creek Middle School, processing yard debris into compost, which could then be used in products sold at S&H’s retail site located across the street.

Residents continually raised concerns about noise, dust, traffic and health impacts of composting operations, and on June 26, Kitzhaber signed a bill that prohibited the construction of any compost disposal site within 1,500 feet of a school.

That portion of the bill was spearheaded by Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, Tualatin, and state Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin.

With composting off the table, S&H altered its plans for the Stafford site, moving mining operations to the center of the property and further away from adjacent roads and homes.

“We thought it would be a better plan for buffering the operations more,” Gehr said.

Gehr does not anticipate the mining operations will cause nearly as much public outcry as the composting did — especially with the most recent changes to the plan.

“It’s really quite simple,” Gehr said. “We’re only after soil — we’re not going to blast or crush rock. We don’t expect to find any rock.”

The mining pit will be no more than 35 feet deep, according to Gehr, and since blasting is not necessary, noise should be kept at a minimum. S&H will use the mined materials for its soil mixes.

The company’s composting operations, meanwhile, will continue at the county-owned Clackamas Compost Products property at 11620 SE Capps Road in Clackamas.

Yet the county has made clear that it wants to redevelop the property for manufacturing, and the S&H lease is renewed only on a month-to-month basis.

“Our intent is to develop that property at some point in the future,” said Dan Johnson, program supervisor for the Clackamas County Development Agency. “We want to focus on the ability to create jobs and foster private developments on industrial lands.”

Whenever that may be, S&H will still have composting needs. Where they will be fulfilled is anyone’s guess, and Gehr’s concern grows by the day.

“There were promises and suggestions that the legislation was a stopgap, that there would be long-term solutions,” Gehr said. “That ball was dropped. As far as we know, no one is coming up with solutions for our problem and others out there.

“(Stafford) stopped our solution — that was kind of self-serving and I totally get that. But those homes generate yard debris, too — where will it go?”

Patrick Malee can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 106. Follow him on Twitter, @Pmalee_WL

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