Attempts to turn rural Parvin Butte into a gravel mine have turned the once peaceful hill and the town around it into a morass of legal and political controversy. In the latest twist, the decision to allow mining on Parvin Butte in Dexter without a site review was reconsidered by the Lane County hearings official on March 6, resulting in a partial victory for the Parvin Butte neighbors.
Rural residents of Dexter and Lost Valley have been working to protect the butte for more than a year. They have concerns that include not only the dust, traffic and noise that will affect humans, but also the effects the mining will have on a nearby salmon stream. If they can’t stop the quarry mining, the neighbors have fought to at least have input into how and when the mine would operate via a process called site review.
Lane County had fined Lost Creek Rock Products about $8,000 for mining without a site review. LCRP, a business of Greg Demers and Norman and Melvin McDougal argued it was not needed because there is a 200-foot buffer of land around the mine. Originally the hearings official ruled the site review was not needed. Asked by the county to reconsider, Hearings Official Gary Darnielle ruled that gravel can’t be hauled off the butte and mining cannot happen within the 200-foot buffer without site review and reinstated $3,510 in fines.
“The decision from the hearings officer feels like he was awarding half a decision in favor of mining the butte and half to the residents of this area,” says neighbor Arlen Markus. He asks, “If Demers can mine inside the 200-foot boundary what is to stop them from taking the butte down and stockpiling the rock until a appeal is made?”
The case is by no means closed. LCRP has 10 days to ask Darnielle to reverse his decision yet again. And the county or LCRP can appeal the decision to state Land Use Board of Appeals and to Lane County Circuit Court and a decision made by either or those bodies can be appealed, too. The Parvin Butte neighbors have made it clear they plan to continue the fight.
Lane County commissioners are expected to discuss making a decision on whether to appeal this week in an executive session, which is not open to the public. If either the county or LCRP appeals, the neighbors, who have thus far not been a party in this particular case, can “intervene,” according to the neighbors’ attorney, Dan Stotter.
Stotter says the mine property owner has a pending site review application filed with the Land Management Division that is currently incomplete, and if completed, ruled on and appealed, that too could set off a round of legal actions.
Markus says the ruling makes no mention of the endangered salmon in the creek and says he hopes a site review will “weed out all the unanswered questions.”