Neighbors will appeal approval of hemp/pot facility
A pair of residents in the Chehalem Mountain area are continuing their fight against the construction of an industrial hemp and marijuana processing facility in their neighborhood, filing two appeals they hope will halt the already approved project.
Laura Cochran and Jill Anderson both filed their appeals in December and await word from Yamhill County.
Both Cochran and Anderson have been among the voices speaking out against the proposed facility in recent weeks, a group that includes a united front of nearly a dozen neighbors who say it would be harmful to their health and quality of life.
"I have an adult autistic son who is highly disabled and hypersensitive to noise and odor," Cochran's appeal stated. "His bedroom is adjacent to the proposed operation. He has already suffered greatly from the operation, which occupies structures unlawfully erected without building permits.
"These applicants now seek to take advantage of the initial unlawful siting, (instead) of applying from scratch and locating processing facilities in a more appropriate location on their 'farm.' I am responsible for my son's care and well-being, and by law, his crises and problems are my crises and problems. They also affect my life and my ability to work and function."
The land at 18505 N.E. Jaquith Road is zoned EF-40 (exclusive farm use) by the county and, as such, marijuana and hemp growing and processing is allowed on the land under state law. The land is owned by WAG Holdings and will be operated by OreTex Farms and JCB Farms.
The county planning commission first reviewed the application at its Nov. 7 meeting, then held open the record for about six weeks before reconvening again and making a decision in December.
Appeals of planning commission decisions go before the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners, who will hold a so-far unscheduled public hearing. The Board of Commissioners can either affirm the planning commission decision, modify it or reverse the decision.
Attempts to contact WAG Holdings and their two farm companies were unsuccessful by press time Tuesday morning.
Through her attorney Jeffrey Kleinman, Cochran outlined the grounds for her appeal to the proposal for the facility.
She wants the site's development plan to be reviewed and evaluated for its additional uses, the economic factors related to its use, the traffic issues it might cause as well as the noise, how it might effect the natural area around it and the risks involved for portions of the facility to become hazardous to neighbors.
Cochran believes all of this, taken with the perspectives of the neighbors who have spoken out so adamantly against this project, should be enough for the company to consider moving its planned facility elsewhere.
Still, county commissioners approved the project last month despite the vocal opposition by those who live in the area, occasionally framing their objections as anti-cannabis and lamenting at how much opposition the facility faced.
Neighbors claim they are not anti-cannabis, or even against a facility like this being built in the area.
They believe the specific location of the facility is cause for concern when it comes to noise, smell, safety and traffic issues that might arise, as well as negative impacts to the groundwater on Chehalem Mountain.
Cochran's attorney called the actions of OreTex Farms – the company building the facility – "unlawful" and "thoughtless," saying the company isn't taking the well-being of Cochran, her severely disabled son or any of the other neighbors in the area into consideration.
"The only benefit of the unlawful construction and operation has been to provide real-life experience with the supposedly effective noise suppression and ventilation equipment in place at the processing facility," Kleinman wrote. "When one reads the applicants' materials, it seems clear that the equipment in question is intended to draw noise and industrial odors out of the structure to protect those working within it. The effects outside the structure are quite different. They are extreme, even at some distance."
Anderson lives across the street from the proposed facility and outlined other negative impacts she expects should the project go forward.
She argues that once built, the facility could drain neighboring water wells within a year, citing the opinion of hydrogeologist John Rehm.
The property was formerly a tree farm, so Anderson said there is no irrigation in place for the facility, which she argues would need "significant" irrigation due to how much water hemp and cannabis plants require.
"Having Planning Commissioner Dan Armstrong simply wave his hand and say he doesn't care because water isn't his department is out of line with his position on Planning and Development commission which is to protect public health, safety and welfare," Anderson wrote.
Anderson also argues that the sounds and smells of the proposed facility will negatively impact her family's lives.
The applicant has been allowed to process 24-7, she said, meaning there is nothing stopping the company from working at late hours and filling the neighborhood with the sounds and smells of industrial agriculture.
"I am requesting the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners modify the decision and require applicant to relocate the entire site to a place on the valley floor and/or an industrial area," Anderson said in the appeal. "Further, requiring applicant to safely dismantle the existing buildings that do not meet the definition of ag building."
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