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County rejects bid to reopen rock quarry

May, 05 2005

County rejects bid to reopen rock quarry (LOWELL, Oregon) - Lane County land use officials have denied a proposal to reopen a long-dormant rock quarry near Fall Creek Lake, ruling that the noise generated by rock crushing equipment would significantly impact nearby residents. Portable Rock Productions of Pleasant Hill in January applied for a special use permit to set up crushing and processing machinery at the 31-acre quarry it owns north of Reuben Leigh Road, about 1 1/2 miles north of Lowell. The quarry is part of a 167-acre parcel that is mostly forested. People living near the quarry formed an organization, the Fall Creek/Lowell Livability Group, to stop the proposal, saying they were worried about noise, dump truck traffic and dust. Jim Babson, a member of the group, said that there are about 100 homes within a half mile of the quarry, and roughly 200 within a mile of the pit. "I live next door to the quarry, so my biggest concerns were noise and dust from the operation and the rock hauling," Babson said. In his decision denying the permit, Lane County Planning Director Kent Howe ruled that the noise created by the crushing operation would exceed state standards and would pose a "significant conflict with several nearby residences." Under county code, aggregate processing or mining is allowed on forest land only if it does not "significantly conflict with existing uses on nearby lands." Opponents also argued that the dust from the crushing operation would coat nearby crops and otherwise interfere with adjacent farm and ranch operations. Lonny Bessett, Portable Rock's vice president, called the ruling disappointing and said Monday that he has no plans to appeal the decision. "Our county has no conscience and it's kind of sad," Bessett said. "There's no good aggregate sources in that part of the county." Bessett had filed for the temporary special use permit in order to supply rock for some upcoming public improvement projects in Lowell. The project to rebuild Pioneer Street, which runs from the end of the causeway over Dexter Lake to Jasper-Lowell Road, will include rebuilding sidewalks, the subbase of the street, and replacing old water and sewer lines running beneath it. Bessett also had hoped to supply rock for a project to rehabilitate the Lowell covered bridge, create an interpretive center at the bridge and expand the parking lot. Bessett said trucking the rock from Eugene or Springfield would add several hundred thousand dollars to the projects. Dan Stotter, a Eugene attorney who represented the opponents of the quarry, said many worried that Bessett was seeking the temporary permit with the intention of eventually turning the quarry into a full-time operation. Efforts to obtain a guarantee from Bessett that he would not do so failed, Stotter said. "I think if the applicant had said this was going to be a one-time thing and he wasn't going to ever mine again, he would have gotten a very different treatment" from residents, Stotter said. The Bassett family has tried to obtain permission to operate the quarry three times since 1977, and the county has denied every request. The federal government created the quarry in the 1960s to supply rock to build Fall Creek Dam, and then sold it to the Bassetts. By Joe Harwood The Register-Guard

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