Hemp oil business gets initial approval
A hemp oil extraction facility proposal in Powell Butte that prompted opposition from multiple neighbors was approved by the Crook County Planning Commission last week.
According to County Planner Katie McDonald, the commission approved "the commercial use in conjunction with farm use" subject to multiple conditions associated with traffic impact, hours of operation, noise levels and more.
The draft decision from the approval was reviewed at a planning commission meeting Wednesday afternoon and it will now go out for public notice and an appeal period.
The county planning department received application from Stanley Shephard, owner of Central Oregon Processing LLC, for the extraction facility on Oct. 31. As mandated by state statute, the planning department gave 20 days of advanced notice of an upcoming public hearing on the project to all neighbors within 750 feet of the proposed facility and issued a public notice about the hearing in the newspaper.
"Before the hearing, the planning commission did a site visit. We noticed those same neighbors and they invited their neighbors," said County Planning Director Ann Beier. "So, we had more than 20 people at the site visit in addition to the planning commission. On these big projects, we try to do that so that people all hear and see the same things. I think that was really helpful for both the planning commission and the neighbors."What the planning commission learned during its Dec. 11 public hearing is that the neighbors are not pleased with the proposal, raising concerns about everything from property contamination and safety to traffic impact and hours of operation.
"They were overwhelmingly in opposition to the proposal," Beier said.
After fielding considerable testimony, the planning commission chose at the conclusion of the meeting to leave the record open and accept additional written testimony from the public and offer the applicant an opportunity for written rebuttal.
Several neighbors took advantage of the opportunity as the planning department received multiple, sometimes lengthy, written documents outlining why they are opposed to the project. Concerns ranged from the impact to local traffic and noise to the hours of operation and safety of the facility.
When the planning commission met last Wednesday to deliberate, they entered the session with some recommended conditions from the county planning staff. They suggested that the applicant be required to obtain additional permits from the Crook County building official, sanitarian and fire marshal as well as the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the State of Oregon Fire Marshal. Another recommended condition would require the applicant to provide a copy of the annual production report submitted to the Department of Agriculture to the County Community Development Department. The planning staff recommended the commission require hours of operation be kept between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday and suggested requirements for new lighting to be downcast and shielded. The commission was additionally recommended to require use of a second access pending approval from the county road master and limit noise generated by the operation to 70 decibels as the east and west boundary of the facility.
McDonald said that the planning commission moved forward with much of the recommended conditions, while making some modifications. For example, they required permitting from Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in addition to other agencies and restricted the hours of operation to 10-hour shifts between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. The commission also increased the noise restriction to 75 decibels.
The decision on the proposal was made final on Wednesday triggering a 12-day period of time in which it can be appealed. According to the Crook County Code, appeals can be filed by either the applicant or any person or county official who testified at the public hearing or provided written comment. The appellate body for the appeal would be the Crook County Court, "unless the county court orders the appeal be sent directly to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals as the final decision by the county."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.