Railroad goes to federal court of Albany log yard
ALBANY — A railroad company has asked a federal judge to keep the Linn County government from shutting down a business that last fall started loading logs on trains.
The operation is on an old mill site east of Albany that was idle for decades while a rural residential community grew around it.
Neighbors call the log-loading operation noisy, especially in the morning, and the trucks that bring in the logs a hazard for school children, The Albany Democrat-Herald reports.
The operation began in October. In December, the county planning director said it didn't meet zoning codes.
The newspaper reports that Albany & Eastern Railroad Co. has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Eugene. The railroad contends that it is governed by the federal Interstate Commerce Commission rather than county zoning laws.
“We tried to educate the county, but it fell on deaf ears,” said Rick Franklin, the railroad's president. “In retrospect, we should not have tried to appeal before the county commissioners. In the future, we will go to federal court and deal with issues there.”
Commissioner Chairman Roger Nyquist called the filing unfortunate. “When one takes matters to federal court, it generally takes longer to get through things than would otherwise happen,” he said.
A Rainier company, Teevin Bros. Land & Timber, operates the site as a contractor. It's on property once owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, now owned by the Albany & Eastern. A lumber mill operated there decades ago but was idle for years. Now, residences are close by.
Neighbors told county officials of early morning noise and lights, truck traffic, safety issues for children waiting for school buses and road damage caused by the log trucks.
Permits were not secured for development of the property, and it was a heavy industrial use in a light industrial zone, said Robert Wheeldon, director of planning and building, who issued a cease and desist order.
The railroad said it's willing to discuss potential resolutions, but it's not willing to relocate the log yard.
Mark Russell, the railroad's general manager, said in an affidavit that the yard allows companies like Weyerhaeuser to haul truckloads to the site only a few miles from its Snow Peak Tree Farm, instead of taking all day to take them to export facilities in Longview, a 250-mile round trip.
Information from: Albany Democrat-Herald, http://www.dhonline.com