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Poole Quarry hot topic during town hall

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith listens to input at a Feb. 18 town hall meeting at the Wilsonville Community Center. A public town hall in Wilsonville on Feb. 18 probably provided the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners with a bit more off-the-cuff discussion than they expected.

The town hall at the Wilsonville Community Center, co-hosted by the Wilsonville Area Chamber of Commerce, was an open forum for attendees to pose questions to commissioners. And that’s exactly what county residents Jos Jacobs and Mike Neish brought to the table, asking pointed, if unanswerable, questions about campaign financing and its possible role in the commission’s approval last year of the controversial Poole Quarry just a few miles northwest of Wilsonville.

“You recently approved an application for a quarry next to a national wildlife refuge and the Ice Age Tonquin Trail — this quarry sits right on top of it,” said Jacobs, who has been a leader in the fight against the quarry. “It’s very close to organic farms. It goes against the agri-tourism that you refer to that you think is important. It’s 50 feet from people’s doors, and there’s more that should have been taken into account.”

“Can you get to the question, please,” responded Commissioner Tootie Smith.

“Some of your political support committees received money from quarry applicants,” Jacobs answered, pointing to a sheaf of reports taken from the state’s ORESTAR online campaign finance reporting system. “So I ask again, why did you approve this and did that money have anything to do with it? And why was this not stated at the hearing?”

The Poole Quarry application actually predates the election of Smith and Commission Chairman John Ludlow by several years. The project received a conditional use permit from the county in 2010, but that decision was successfully appealed to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, or LUBA. The latest proposal, however, included a comprehensive map amendment designating the Poole site as a significant resource of rock and aggregate minerals. This allowed the project to move forward against continuing objections from local residents.

“I can’t do much more for you,” Ludlow told Mike Reish, who lives near the quarry site. “Every decision is appealable to LUBA.”

“You can argue this all night long, but the number one reason I supported this is because it’s the landlord’s right to do so,” said Smith. “To have a rock quarry according to our land use laws and zoning, it’s providing lots of jobs. I had a whole notebook of concerns from people who came before us. I sat down with staff and talked about them ... I believe it was the right decision and I stand by the decision of the board.”

Located on a 35-acre site a half-mile off of Tonquin Road northwest of Wilsonville, the project also has been questioned by the city of Wilsonville because of the amount of heavy truck traffic existing quarries in the area already send through city streets, most prominently Day Road at the north end of the city.

“In this particular case, the city of Wilsonville has a road, Day Road, that is failing because of all that rock coming out of those quarries,” Mayor Tim Knapp told commissioners Tuesday during the course of a larger discussion about county priorities over the next year. “It is going to cost us a lot of money to fix Day Road.”

Smith and Ludlow in particular defended the commission’s 5-0 vote to allow the quarry to go forward. Both denied any suggestion their decision might have been influenced by campaign contributions funneled through different companies owned by quarry applicant Sean Keys.

“That would demand proof that we’ve benefited from this — you have proof of this?” asked Ludlow.

Jacobs repeated his question, prompting others to weigh in.

“We made the decision because years ago the state and county identified the resources, and this process was extensive,” said Commissioner Jim Bernard. “We need to do the same thing on landfills. But if the resource exists, they have a right to apply for it in that area. Those gravel pits could not be done just anywhere, and it was done to identify where they belong; this area is full of gravel pits.”



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