A marijuana and hemp processing facility proposed on Chehalem Mountain drew plenty of controversy in late 2019 and early 2020 — and now the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals has weighed in on the matter.
After the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners approved the facility and later denied an appeal by concerned residents, those residents took their case to LUBA in August and were denied once again as the state agency upheld the county's decision.
The petitioners, Jill Anderson and Laura Cochran, argued to both the county commission and LUBA that the facility poses a danger to residents with smell, sound and the potential for explosion, and that it isn't following the proper land use for the property. LUBA disagreed, affirming the respondent's assertion that it is following all laws and regulations.
OreTex Farms owner Christopher Bryan, who was defending his company's right to construct the facility on the mountain, spoke to county commissioners in January about the facility.
"I spent the last several years working with various people in the community to make this dream of becoming a small business owner a reality," Bryan said. "The incorrect comments and allegations asserted by my opposition are quite frustrating given the lengths that I have gone through. I am committed to running a first-class business, which is compliant with all laws and regulations."
The heart of Cochran's argument, in addition to her views on land use, were how the facility might impact her mentally disabled adult son. She told the commissioners in January that her son was adversely affected by the smells and sounds emanating from a previous facility on the property.
"Stuck inside during previous processing, Sean basically had a mental breakdown," Cochran said at the time. "He scraped the paint and the sheet rock off the walls in our home. He harmed himself and those taking care of him and he started smashing his head into walls."
"There is no other farm in my neighborhood that sickens neighbors, stops breathing, sends people to the emergency room, glues eyes shut, makes children and grandchildren housebound. No other farm crop is illegal to sell within 1,000 feet of a school. It's a chemical refinery that creates industrial noise 24 hours a day."
LUBA disagreed. They affirmed that OreTex is following the correct land use for the area and their work is classified as agricultural. Bryan and OreTex made a number of concessions to the appellants to address their concerns in January, and it is unclear whether Cochran and Anderson will take their case further.
"Petitioner argues that the plain language of the code requires the county consider the surrounding and adjoining uses, and that the county instead and improperly focused on the zoning of surrounding and adjoining properties," a portion of the LUBA decision said. "We agree with respondents that this assignment of error does not provide a basis for remand … It is clear that the county found that, although the dwellings exist, they are not the dominant characteristic of adjoining and surrounding uses and that supporting farm use is a fundamental objective in the underlying zones. The county did not misconstrue the term 'use,' and the findings are adequate to explain the county's reasoning."
Each portion of the county's decision and affirmation was upheld by LUBA, with the respondents given full clearance to move ahead with the project. Whether the protracted legal battle will continue remains to be seen.
The full LUBA decision with details on each portion of the appellants' and respondents' arguments, and how LUBA responded, can be found online at https://www.oregon.gov/luba/Docs/20025.pdf.
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