In his 10 years on Silverton’s Planning Commission, Eric Stroup has never seen an outpouring so large or so emotionally charged as that which arose in a matter of days in opposition to a land-use proposal by Quikrete Companies Inc.
“When the public comes out en masse it’s our job to listen,” said Stroup.
Yet responding to pleas proved more difficult than simply granting the wishes of an adamant constituency. Quikrete’s proposed operation at Silverton industrial park is qualified as a permitted use under current Silverton law.
At its Oct. 6 meeting that included voting to hear the three appeals in an “on the record” quasi-judicial hearing, Silverton City Council reaffirmed the Silverton Planning Commission’s Aug. 19 approval (with four modifications), in the process denying appeals from Quikrete, Webb Lake Homeowners Association and a contingent of independent citizens known as Citizens United Against Quikrete.
In other words, nobody went away exactly happy.
Linda Sarnoff, Silverton community development director, said a conditional-use application was required due to the mixing, packaging and sacking elements involved in the dry concrete manufacturing facility. The Atlanta-based company, with 88 locations across the U.S., applied in late July to establish a Northwest branch in Silverton at 1204 Mill St. There materials for bagged concrete mix would be gathered, dried, mixed, packaged and sent forth on shrink-wrapped pallets.
The planning commission gave voice to residents’ concerns in regard to air quality, noise and other forms of pollution in the 31 conditions imposed on Quikrete in its approval, which passed 4-2 at the Aug. 19 commission meeting.
Prerequisites included more stringent emission requirements than those required by the Department of Environmental Quality, significant landscape improvements; 8- to 10-foot-high sound barriers; and complete encasement and sky-hued painting of the plant’s silos, elevator and related equipment.
Council’s added conditions had to do with air and acoustical regulation and monitoring.
“They have just added more conditions,” said Mark Shipman, Salem-based attorney for Quikrete, as the hearing closed, “and we told them the four conditions we wanted modified were important.”
Presenting Quikrete’s appeal, Wayne Pittman, a vice president based in Atlanta, pointed out the company’s stability and willingness to meet most of the conditions in a long-term, multimillion-dollar investment.
Of the four items appealed, one condition stood out as unacceptable as Quikrete looked at its ability to serve customers years down the road, Pittman said. The condition sharply restricting nighttime operations, while not necessarily intended as such, was received as “an effective rejection of this application.” The company requested that condition be removed entirely and three others revised.
Webb Lake Homeowners Association requested a completely new hearing, based on its disagreement with Silverton considering silos to fall under a permitted height exemption for “towers” and in regard to neighborhood and pedestrian health, safety and livability.
Citizens United Against Quikrete appealed on the basis that not all operations would be conducted within a building and questioned the business’ access to Mill Street, possible presence of fugitive dust emissions in the neighborhood and possible impact on property values. They also raised concerns about possible procedural errors.
While the appeals were heard and discussed at length, none failed to move the Council to the extent of rejecting the approval or remanding it to the planning commission, although councilors Stu Rasmussen and Kyle Palmer voted along those lines.
“Too many times we really have no control,” Palmer said. “I am not content with this definition of what’s OK.”
One of Palmer’s chief concerns was the DEQ’s criterion in terms of the size of airborne particles it considers measureable.
Council passed a motion made by councilor Sherry Hoefel naming four additional conditions; but a motion by councilor Bill Cummins paralleling Quikrete’s appeal was voted down.
“Are you aware that we are required to have a minimum amount of industrial land within the urban growth boundary and at this point we’re kind of stuck (in this spot)?” Cummins asked of Portland-based attorney Jason Grosz, who presented the Webb Lake Homeowners Association appeal.
Grosz said Webb Lake-area residents currently enjoy a favorable relationship with their industrial neighbors to the south. In fact, he said, all they really notice (from flavor-producer Givaudan , where Cummins is an administrator ) is a “sweet smell.”
“I’m not sure you can depend on all industrial applications to provide that,” quipped Rasmussen, providing a moment of comic relief in a meeting entered through a throng of sign-holding protestors and punctuated by guffaws and a few out-of-order outbursts. Although for the most part respectful and orderly, at one point during the meeting Silverton Mayor Ken Hector banged his gavel and admonished the audience, “…your laughter and the talking amongst yourselves is both unprofessional and unbecoming.”
“The decision wasn’t a victory for Silverton, but we are glad the council at least upheld the planning commission’s additional conditions,” said Tiffany Sharrar the next day. She and Mill Street resident Jim Squires filed an appeal on behalf of Citizens United Against Quikrete, a group Sharrar said is composed of about 30-40 locals. “Many of us will remember this night when we cast our votes in the upcoming election.”
Both Squires and Rasmussen are running for mayor against 16-year incumbent Ken Hector.
Although Silverton Chamber of Commerce’s job entails recruiting business, chamber director Stacy Palmer said Quikrete came to Silverton of its own accord.
“Silverton is not located close to I-5; we have quite high water and sewer rates; during certain times in the winter our natural gas supply is limited; and our industrial area lies in close proximity to residential areas,” she said, noting that at the same time Silverton requires larger businesses to provide jobs, share the tax burden and, most importantly, stimulate the local economy.
“I connected with other chambers (where Quikrete had plants) and got nothing but glowing reviews on their being good community contributors and neighbors,” she said.
John Rodriguez, manager of engineering at Quikrete’s offices in Corona, Calif., said upon learning of the Silverton property, Quikrete decided to withdraw a similar application in Salem, where they’d already been accepted. Days after the meeting, Rodriguez declined to comment.
“There’s always going to be opposition anymore when you do a land-use application; there just happened to be a lot more in this case,” Shipman said. “The bigger story for Silverton is that it may never get the industry it needs to attract. That’s an $8 million property sitting there…”
“Nobody wants to close the industrial park; it’s very important to this community,” said Squires in presenting the citizens’ group appeal. “It’s a matter of making it work for everybody.
“The city had months to prepare for this; the citizens got about 10 days – and that was on a good day – to try to come before you people without looking like idiots – and it wasn’t easy,” Squires said to the council.
City staff is preparing the modified resolution for adoption at the council’s next regular meeting Nov. 3. Appellant parties have the option of filing an appeal with Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals within 21 days of that decision.
“I’m probably as ‘green’ as anyone in this town,” commissioner Stroup reflected the day after the council meeting in regard to Silverton’s overall business-recruiting prospects. “I ride my bike to work; my cars all get at least 30 miles to the gallon… I’m not a believer in business at any cost, but I am concerned about the ability of a town to attract business where we have an industrial park and don’t allow it to function as an industrial park and a truck route we don’t allow to function as a truck route.”