Marcus Larson/News-Register##Yamhill County Commissioner Stan Primozich shows the written testimony submitted about Riverbend Landfill. Primozich stated he read through all the documents submitted.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Yamhill County Commissioner Stan Primozich shows the written testimony submitted about Riverbend Landfill. Primozich stated he read through all the documents submitted.
By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Landfill expansion approved on 2-1 vote

Commissioner Allen Springer, who had been under fire in recent weeks over his extensive contacts with Riverbend parent company Waste Management Inc., and his ardent support for a company grant program that had critics crying foul, cast the dissenting vote. He was outpolled by commission newcomers Mary Starrett and Stan Primozich in upholding an earlier planning commission approval, coming before commissioners on appeal.

The board adopted all 22 of the conditions recommended by the planning department and approved by the planning commission, one of which reduces the scope from 37 acres to 29. The commissioners plan to revisit the issue on April 16 to adopt their findings and conclusions in final, legal form.

Should it win state Department of Environmental Quality approval and survive further appellate challenges, the expansion is expected to give the regional landfill up to 10 years of additional life. Otherwise, it would be facing closure within two years, having reached its maximum capacity.

Paul Burns, Waste Management’s director of operations for the Pacific Northwest, released a statement afterward saying, “We are grateful to the commissioners and county staff for ensuring an open and transparent process.

“Hundreds of people helped make the Riverbend plan better in three years of community meetings. As a result, the plan approved today provides strong benefits for Yamhill County, as well as critical protections for the environment.

“The real challenge, moving forward, is reducing the garbage that we all generate. Our shared goal needs to be zero waste. We look forward to helping Yamhill County move in this direction.”

The hearing opened with the presentation of a staff report.

Planning Director Mike Brandt told the commissioners that after “six and a half years of dealing with this ‘Groundhog Day’ type of application process,” he had run out of suggestions.

He reviewed some previous recommendations, including ones requiring Waste Management to develop a “green technology” waste-reduction facility and eliminating the smaller of two proposed expansion sites.

“But for the past nearly two weeks, I have had nothing,” he said. “No new revelations, no innovative conditions, nothing Switzerlandish or Solomonesque.”

Brandt said he disagreed with several of the arguments raised by the landfill’s ardent opponents, but agreed with others. In the final analysis, he told commissioners, he believed Waste Management had met the legal criteria for approval.

“The opponents have argued that Oregon Administrative Rule 660-133-0130(18), regarding the non-existence of a landfill wholly on exclusive farm use land, precludes approval of any landfill expansion on EFU lands contiguous to Riverbend,” Brandt said. “As I have stated previously, I agree with the opponents regarding this argument. For a while now, I have been concerned that the rezoning of Riverbend landfill from public works to exclusive farm use runs afoul of the administrative rule language, and I believe that the opponents’ arguments regarding legislative history are compelling.”

He said the county’s legal counsel “has informed me that my concerns are without legal merit, and, further, in approving the zone change last year from PWS to EF-80, the board of commissioners had already taken this matter into consideration.” That notwithstanding, he said, “I feel there is an unresolved legal issue that will likely be resolved on appeal.”

Brandt said the county had gotten a substantial volume of testimony on what he termed “very subjective” criteria, including impact to farm and forest practices on surrounding lands. “I don’t believe it is my job to tell you how to vote,” he said, but given that testimony, “I do believe that you have latitude in determining whether to approve or deny the application before you on the basis of (ORS) 215.296.”

Starrett told the audience, filled with both supporters and opponents, that based on the testimony presented at a hearing held earlier this month, “I had made a decision that the expansion should not go forward.” But she subsequently changed her mind, she said.

“The task that is before us, as Mike mentioned, is not to talk about whether this is a good location for a landfill,” she said. “This is a lousy location for a landfill.

“It is not to talk about whether or not this is something that we particularly like as a community, this garbage being brought in. That is not the issue at this point.”

Starrett said, “It was a lot like receiving jury instructions. You must, pretty much, vote and make a decision based on the legal criteria which are before you.”

Based on that, she said, “The way I look at this is that, seeing Waste Management has met the criteria, I would consider this should be approved. The expansion should be approved.”

Primozich made a lengthy statement assuring the audience that he had read all of the testimony and taken it seriously.

Facing allegations of bias and calls for his recusal, Springer repeatedly insisted in recent weeks that he had not yet made up his mind how he would vote. He said he had not even shared his line of thinking on the issue with his wife — an assertion he repeated Thursday.

He said he needed to divorce himself from “the pressure and perceived pressure that came from both sides, and the different pot shots that have been taken at us.” He told members of the audience, “But you don’t know us that well, so I’m giving you a pass on that. And it sells papers.”

Addressing his critics, Springer said he “wanted to thank you again for the opportunity to recuse myself,” but said, “I’m not about to be derelict in my duty.” He then exercised that duty by casting the commission’s lone no vote.



Time to sell my home in McMinnville and move to a county that actually values the long-term health of its citizens.

Oh and nice political move Springer.


TTT, my thought about Springer exactly. I have no doubt all three of them collaborated on how the votes should play out.


"I have no doubt all three of them collaborated on how the votes should play out."

That would be a violation of the law, but the thought crossed my mind, as well. Voting 'no' on something you support, knowing the votes exist to pass it, helps deflect some of the flak for now.

In the past, I've seen commissioners vote against something they actually favored (knowing how the vote was going to turn out), for the sole purpose of allowing them to bring the issue up at another meeting, because a procedural rule allows only those voting with the majority to ask for a reconsideration of the action. This would allow the official to buy time for additional information to be presented, and to align support for a different outcome.

While this tactic wouldn't favor Mr. Springer's vote on this particular item, it demonstrates that recorded votes do not always represent how an official actually feels about an issue. It is entirely probable that this vote will be appealed to LUBA and remanded back to the county, requiring the commissioners to vote again on their findings. At that time, you may see a different vote tally. Who knows.


In this case, Mr. Springer's "no" means "yes."


I'm very disappointed in our county commissioners, if they lived close to the landfill, I'm sure they would all have a different view. I really feel like they have let down all Yamhill County citizens. they should be ashamed of their votes.


Springer always talks about "transparency" in government; well, his motives surely were transparent today. You three have summed it up very nicely.

Hilltop Comnentator

Time to start the landfill renaming campaign so that their names will be forever linked to this pile of offal.

David Bates

Having read the story, I'm confused: Springer voted "no" to divorce himself (the reporter's words, not his) from "the pressure and perceived pressure that came from both sides." That's why he voted no? Or that was the mental process he went through in order to arrive at a "no" decision objectively?

Springer put himself in an impossible and ridiculous position from the get-go. Clearly, his "no" functions as a "yes" insofar as it takes one of opponents' grounds for appeal away. But if he wanted to remove himself, he should have abstained. Spongebob, correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't abstaining and recusing yourself from the proceedings two different things?

Moving on to Starrett, our local champion of everything anti-government (who, oddly enough, desperately wanted to spend her days running it): She thinks the landfill is awful but voted "yes" because she felt obliged to by the (perceived) mandate of ... the government? (The law, in other words). Even though Brandt told them they had latitude to go either way?

Don Dix

Abstension is refraining by one's own choice, usually for lack of information on the subject, or inability to make a decision.

Recusal is to disqualify oneself from all participation in a decision on the grounds of prejudice or personal interest or involvement.

Abstention allows one to deliberate, discuss, and consider, but, by personal choice, decides not to vote on the matter.

Recusal 'should' eliminate one from any input ( or presence at the proceedings ) and disqualifies that individual from casting a vote.

Springer apparently didn't want to be left out of any deliberation ( speaking for or against the matter ). His recusal would probably have eliminated him from voting on any segment of the matter in the future. It would effectively take him out of the game.

Since Springer's is the next Comissioner position up for election ( 2 years ), his vote apparently will be used as 'proof' of his concern for all parties involved. But the grandstanding has made his motives clear. Possibly this is 'transparency' gone awry!


David, Don explained the difference between recusal and abstention well. If Springer voted 'no' for the purposes of distancing himself from the fray, he did a disservice to his constituents; he should have simply abstained. Sitting in a quasi-judicial capacity, he was supposed to vote on whether or not the application met the criteria for approval; not to send a message about how he was being portrayed in public. He failed the process, and he failed the voters who elected him to take his job seriously.


One interesting note:
Springer will be up for re-election in two years, but the terms of Starrett and Primozich still have four years to run. Thus, he would have to be considered the most politically vulnerable as a consequence of his vote.
Did that play any role? We really have no way of knowing.


And the Academy Award goes to...wait, ladies and gentlemen, we seem to have--yes! a three-way tie! Unprecedented in the history of the Academy. [The audience is going wild!!!]
Is this a comedy or a tragedy?

Don Dix

"I was for it before I was against it". That's the 'political go to' these days. Commissioner Springer is playing to the gullible, hoping they are out there. Embarrassing, actually!

Spongebob is correct, he should have abstained, and many would have never realized recusal had very different consequences.

David Bates

If there really isn't anything in state or county law, as Commissioner Starrett suggests, to prevent an environmental disaster like Riverbend Landfill from becoming an even bigger disaster, then the law needs to be changed. I'm sure Allen Springer and Jim Weidner will get right on that.


Immediately following the vote I asked Mr. Springer why he voted no. "Structural concerns" was the answer. I left wondering, structure of the landfill or structure of your political career?


Glad to see the voters of Yamhill County did such a fine job on voting for the current commissioners . The people that voted for this bunch got what they deserved on the landfill vote. They really listened to the people.

David Bates

Molliemck, how vigorously did Commissioner Springer argue his case during deliberations that "structural concerns" merited a "no" vote? Did he make any attempt to persuade his two colleagues to join him in voting no?


Good question, David! I am not accustomed to attending meetings like this, so the procedures and instructions, etc. were all new to me. Also, I am not publicly aligned with any side. I just went alone as an interested citizen. Mr. Springer did not know me.

The whole thing was confusing at the very end. They each said their thoughts with Mr. Springer going last. I did not think he said how he was going to vote, just talked about his thought process as stated in the article above. He certainly did not try to persuade his colleagues!!! Then they took the vote and it was surprising to hear an opposing vote! Following that was the quick statement about the motion passing 2-1 and then the gavel noise. Everyone started moving around. I was not sure what happened! Others around me looked confused, too. I had to ask what happened! That is why I asked him for his rationale, because I was surprised. I told him I was surprised and he said, "I bet you were." And when I asked why he voted as he did he said only, "structural concerns."

David Bates

Thanks for that account, Molliemck. Based on that, and on reading about the decision, I'm inclined to agree with Spongebob. Springer gets a big "F" for this one. Given the volume of testimony and evidence, and the high level of public interest, elected officials would have best served the process and constituents by explaining their rationale for how they voted. Springer seems to have been spooked about perceptions of bias and felt it more important to be able to croon about how he surprised everyone, when it was likely nothing more than a strategic move to head off an appeal. To be blunt, a perfect storm of cowardice and ineptitude. "Structural concerns"? Give me a break.


You may never get an adequate answer to what constitutes "structural concerns." Many years ago, I asked a commissioner who had voted against a landfill expansion specifically because he considered it a structure: it had design elements that included a system of underground pipes to carry off water and gases. But this commissioner had also voted to approve the placement of a cell tower in a rural area, and had determined that it was not a structure. I asked him to explain how a garbage dump was a structure, but a cell tower was not. He simply replied, "It's complicated." That was the end of the explanation.

Springer should have explained his vote. His failure to do so will only serve to cast further suspicion on his reasons for it. Transparency indeed.

David Bates

"It's complicated."

David Bates

That quote made me laugh out loud. Thanks. :-)

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