Opp Mine zone change faces public hearing

Opp Mine zone change faces public hearing

The fate of the Opp Mine in Jacksonville will be debated at a public hearing before Jackson County commissioners Wednesday.

Owner Frank Hardin and partner Medford attorney Bob Robertson are seeking a zone change from woodland resource to aggregate resource. The change would allow them to restart operations at the old mine and pull between 1.4 million and 1.6 million cubic yards of aggregate from a 27-acre section of the 160-acre property ”” along with, possibly, gold.

The old gold mine is near Jackson Creek Road, about a mile outside of the historic town of Jacksonville. The proposed zone change would also allow blasting and strip-mining on the property. The partners’ request is meeting with stiff resistance from city officials and nearby neighbors who, in part, oppose it because of the heavy truck traffic that would roll through downtown Jacksonville.

The Jackson County Planning Commission in November unanimously voted to recommend the county commissioners deny the Opp Mine request. Planning commissioners ruled Hardin and Robertson had not met their burden of proof to warrant a zone change.

The planning commission staff report culled from more than 2,000 pages of oral and written testimony from residents, technical experts and city officials advised them that approving the zone change could create significant negative environmental, economic and traffic safety issues, commissioners said.

Chairman Reeve Hennion expressed concern about chemicals leaching into underground water and Jackson Creek, blasting harming neighboring wells, and air quality.

“The mine setting lacks any natural topographic barriers that could mitigate noise, dust and other impacts and does not offer viable mitigation measures to compensate. The proposed site is further complicated by an abandoned mine, the historic Opp Mine, with pending clean-up measures required by DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality), and a set of underground tunnels,” wrote Jackson County Planner Stuart Todd.

Several planning commissioners also questioned the property’s viability as an aggregate site. Most aggregate applicants provide dozens of labeled samples. Hennion questioned the fact the Opp owners supplied a single rock sample which was taken from an unverified location.

Jacksonville town leaders ”” and nearby neighbors wearing red “Stop Opp” stickers ”” applauded the planning commission’s decision to deny the request. Jacksonville City Administrator Paul Wyntergreen said on Tuesday the potential mining operation will bring heavy truck traffic through the town’s historic core. Pollution is inevitable and will create environmental dangers to the community, he added.

“They are immediately upstream from us from an air and water perspective,” Wyntergreen said. Hardin could not be reached for comment. Robertson did not return calls Thursday and Friday.

Hardin’s mother-in-law, Bernadine Wynnyk, purchased the property in 1988 with the understanding the zoning could be changed, Hardin said in November. Hardin said this is a property rights issue which has deeply and negatively impacted his family. He will not stop battling for the rezoning, he said.

Hardin and Robertson have filed a $50 million lawsuit against Jackson County. The acreage has been recently listed for sale for between $8 million and $5 million, according to Hardin. The aggregate has an estimated value of between $12 million and $21 million, Robertson has stated. Robertson said the lawsuit will be dropped if the county commissioners agree to the rezone. They are being represented by Medford land use planner Mike LaNier and attorney Ross Day, director of legal affairs for the property-rights group Oregonians in Action. The Opp Mine public hearing will follow a public hearing on Shady Cove’s urban growth boundary. The hearings will begin at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Jackson County Courthouse Auditorium.

Source: www.mailtribune.com

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