A controversial proposal to build a housing development on a former mine in Terrebonne is back after being denied in 2015.
On Tuesday, Lower Bridge Road LLC argued to a public hearings officer that Deschutes County should allow a 19-lot residential development on nearly 145 acres of land between the Deschutes River and Lower Bridge Road west of Terrebonne.
Other than being about 10 acres smaller, the proposal is largely the same as four years ago. Greg Daniels, a developer with Lower Bridge Road LLC, said he still has a vision to sell the lots on the east side of the 556-acre property to help pay for cleaning up the western portion of the former mine.
The mine, where diatomaceous earth — used for mechanical insecticide, cat litter and other products — was extracted in the early 20th century, was also used to dispose of hazardous waste such as cyanide and lead in the 1970s, according to county documents.
“I’m not going to give up,” Daniels said. “I’m going to continue to do this until this property is developed.”
But many of the issues opponents raised four years ago remain. Opponents are still challenging the idea that the parcel is safe to build upon, and they contest that the portion of the property in the flood plain zone precludes developers from creating cluster subdivisions, which group together residential properties to allow the extra land on the site to be open space .
“What they see is a significantly contaminated site is being proposed for residential use,” said Liz Dickson, an attorney representing a group of neighbors surrounding the proposed site.
But what Lower Bridge Road LLC has now that they didn’t have in 2015 are letters from the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Human Services verifying the site is safe for residential use.
Environmental concerns, as well as questions about code compliance, were key reasons the first application was denied by the hearings officer in September 2015.
But Dickson is contending the DEQ’s determination is not based on “a full understanding of the case,” and intends to cite reasons those letters shouldn’t be considered adequate.
“DEQ doesn’t get the full story,” she said.
Tia Lowry, the attorney representing Lower Bridge Road LLC, disagrees with Dickson’s assessment, arguing that all of the environmental issues brought by Dickson are public knowledge and available to the government agencies.
Central Oregon Landwatch also opposes the application, highlighting issues with the flood plain zone by the river and an insufficient riparian management plan.
“This is one of the most valuable environmental areas in the flood plain in this county,” said Paul Dewey, executive director of the group.
But Lowry argues that there is past legal precedent that allows flood plains to be included into these kinds of developments and believes the proposal meets all of the county’s criteria.
“Our goal is to meet the law, not circumvent it,” Lowry said.
The public is invited to comment on this proposal until 5 p.m. July 30. After the public hearings officer makes a decision, the issue will go to the county commission for review.
— Reporter: 541-633-2160, firstname.lastname@example.org