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Monday, December 11, 2023
Dec. 11, 2023

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Rock quarry request for surface mining overlay opposed

Clark County Planning Commission votes against recommending approval

By , Columbian staff writer

Cardai Hill Rock Quarry’s request for a surface mining overlay on 46 acres of a 76-acre parcel the company owns south of Woodland won’t be getting an endorsement from the Clark County Planning Commission. The commission voted 3-2 against recommending the mining overlay for approval to the county council at its public hearing on Thursday.

The last request for the property was in 1997 and saw dozens of residents turn out to voice their opposition. Some of those same residents were back Thursday as the planning commission prepared to vote on the new request.

“The county has already found this area has significant potential adverse environmental impacts,” said David McDonald, attorney for Friends of Clark County, referring to the 1997 application review. McDonald noted that Friends of Clark County has already appealed the determination of nonsignificance finding by the county for Cardai Hill’s application.

Area resident Charles Lashley, who lives on Cardai Hill Road, said his street wasn’t designed for the vehicles and traffic needed to support mining operations. Lashley said the road is already barely maintained and would be heavily damaged by quarry activity.

“I’m already concerned about the Woodland traffic issues with the current vehicle use,” Lashley said. “How will it increase truck traffic and impact the city further?”

The county received dozens of written comments prior to the planning commission meeting. Most opposed the overlay. County Planner Bart Catching said the issues raised by residents fall into three categories: environmental impacts from mining, livability in the area around the site and potential transportation impacts.

Catching noted the surface mining overlay would not allow the company to begin mining operations but would allow the company to request a conditional use permit, which would come with a more in-depth review and environmental assessment, he said.

According to Catching, a traffic impact analysis done by staff and the quarry’s consultant “found that the existing transportation system is able to accommodate the proposed change.”

“We sense the frustration in the comments that that level of environmental review is not happening right now but that’s not the procedure, the policy that county staff follows for these types of overlays,” Catching told the planning commission. “Noise, air quality, potential hours of operation … those are all reviewed through very specific criteria in the surface mining code section and also additional review through the (conditional use permit) process.”

Woodland’s worries

The city of Woodland has concerns with the request as well. Travis Goddard, community development director for the city and a former Clark County employee, was among those who spoke at the meeting.

“We need to talk about significant adverse impacts,” Goddard said. “The site is adjacent to the city’s water service area. Because there’s arsenic in the groundwater over there, we recently put a pipe underneath the river to serve a public water system … so we don’t know how this would affect our well.”

The 1997 request, which was made under different ownership, was later withdrawn. Catching said there have been a number of changes to the county code for surface mining overlays since, along with a renewed interest in allowing mining to meet the county’s need for aggregate.

Catching said the Cardai Hill application met the county’s criteria for a surface mining overlay. Those criteria include demonstrating the quantity and characteristics of the resource, including the size of the deposit, depth of overburden, distance to market, cost of transport and resource availability which suggest that “mining is economically viable” on the property.

Planning Commissioner Matt Swindell was among those voting against recommending the overlay. Swindell said he was listening to what the residents had to say.

“We, as a planning commission, have a duty to look at the citizens this is going to affect and really take their testimony to heart. I’m trying to put myself in their position,” Swindell said. “When someone has put their heart and soul into a piece of land, their family, their future, we … need to consider that heavily when making decisions on things like this.”

Commissioner Bryan Halbert said he appreciated all the comments submitted before and during the meeting and agreed there were a lot of concerns to address. However, he said the overlay needs to be approved before those concerns can be addressed.

“I understand that you would like to see a plan on what they’re doing before we approve an overlay. But I think the process is that the overlay needs to be put in place and then they can get the plan put together,” Halbert said.

Although the planning commission voted not to recommend the zoning overlay, the county council could still approve Cardai Hill Rock Quarry’s request. Catching said the council will likely review the application in March or possibly April.

For more information, go to https://clark.wa.gov/community-planning/olr-2022-00014.

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