By editorial board • 

Debate on fate of landfill loses sight of big picture

The denouement of Yamhill County’s 10-year Riverbend Landfill expansion saga, triggered by the state’s November remand of a 2-1 county commission approval, degenerated into something surreal, insipid and wholly unsatisfying as it began to wind its way back from whence it came — to the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

Does burying noxious, potentially toxic waste still make sense today? Is it truly necessary, given the rapid advances being realized in waste-to-energy technologies? Even if so, do the banks of a major Oregon river represent a suitable location, knowing the mayhem that might result from leachate infiltration or a dreaded, long overdue subduction zone quake?

All deep and difficult questions. But all rendered irrelevant when LUBA found against the county board on only one of five points — potential farm impact.

So we are left with the likes of this: Would expansion of a landfill serving much of Northwestern Oregon unduly affect a pheasant operation recently established by landfill neighbor Ramsey McPhillips, whose single-minded opposition knows virtually no bounds? And this: Would expansion trigger an unacceptable level of uprooted grass seed plugs, the result of seagulls visiting the holdings of McPhillips and neighbors?

The content of this public policy debate isn’t the only element been robbed of meaning either. The process has undergone like distortion.

The wide-open, no-holds-barred hearing setting the stage for the county’s original vote was an example of democracy in action. A raucous and full-throated affair, it ran for several hours, then reconvened later for an overflow round.

All citizens who wanted a say had one, along with an invitation to follow up with written amplification afterward. And they relished the opportunity sufficiently to pack the aisles three-deep.

But when it came to conducting a reconsideration in response to the remand, the county commissioners opted to eliminate oral testimony entirely and limit written testimony to farm impact parameters specifically cited in the LUBA decision.

In the narrow realm of political and legal strategy, that made all the sense in the world. In the broad realm of public policy, it made no sense at all, as it robbed the proceedings of anything resembling honest public input.

The crowning moment in this charade occurred when the three commissioners proceeded to cast their votes without a single word of discussion, deliberation, debate or explanation.

Commissioner Allen Springer switched sides this time around, converting a previously split decision to unanimous. And he’s up for re-election in May, in a campaign in which landfill expansion will occupy a prominent, if not dominant, role.

Yet not even he felt compelled to offer his constituents an explanation. The critical session ran less than 15 minutes, and much of that was devoted to the framing of the decision by the county’s legal counsel.

The inevitable appeal will give LUBA the final call — subject, of course, to further appeals up through the Oregon court system.

At this point, it’s apparently all been reduced to the fortunes of pheasants and grass seed plugs, which does our community a terrible disservice.

Comments

yamhillbilly2

Alan, Mary and Stan have only their own self-promotion as a goal in life and they don't give a d!** about what the people of Yamhill county want

Don Dix

Lumping all 3 commissioners into the same derogatory sentiment is disingenuous.

Allen is a native and appears to have no further ambition above the commission, especially considering all the commotion during his term.

Stan isn't going anywhere. For over 30 years he has been solidly immersed in this community. For him there seems to be no NEXT.

Mary is the wild card. She will most likely seek a higher office when her time as commissioner ends. At least that's the perception from here.

Of course, no one is sure what thoughts go through the individual mind, so this my best guess ... I could be wrong.

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