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Second time a charm? Tonquin Road quarry applicants make another attempt at rock mining

by: RAY PITZ - Emma, Jos and Lisa Jacobs pose outside their home off of Morgan Road. In the background is the area where Tonquin Holdings, LLC hopes to begin mining rock as part of a new quarry. Jacobs and neighbors are again fighting that effort.
Three years after the owners of a proposed quarry east of Sherwood eyed a 35-acre site to mine rock — and were turned down by the state — a new application has been filed.

Tonquin Holdings, LLC resubmitted plans to Clackamas County to mine a quarry on the west side of Morgan Road and southwest of Tonquin Road.

The property is near the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge and the future Tonquin Trail, a regional bicycle and pedestrian path.

In addition to the 35 acres, the proposal would add an additional 1,500-foot impact area, an expansion that worries neighbors who previously fought to keep the quarry from mining near their homes.

Many of the property owners are worried about the quarry's impact on their wells, as well as noise from blasting five days a week, dust, and increased traffic.

Jos Jacobs, a landowner who lives near the border of the proposed quarry, said he believes up to 25 property owners could see their properties devalued if the quarry goes through.

"This is bigger than last time,” Jacobs said. “They still want to mine it and they’re also asking for a zone change.”

That could mean as much as 160 acres more just in the Clackamas County portion of the quarry, said Jacobs, who said he believes the 1,500-foot radius overlay is a way to create less objections from neighbors in the long run.

“The long-term effect, once the quarry runs out of rock, they’ll have the opportunity to keep expanding and buy out the neighbors one by one,” said Jacobs. “So this would grow like a cancer for the next 50 years.”

John O’Neil, vice president of Tonquin Holdings LLC, said his company is going through a different process this time, noting that the county ultimately approved the application. O’Neil said his company has again submitted a list of conditions they’ve agreed to abide by to mitigate neighbors’ concerns about the quarry.

The prior application resulted in Clackamas County planners recommending denial of the project. However, a county hearings officer approved the proposal with conditions, which Jacobs and his advocacy group, 1000 Friends of Rock Creek, appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeals. While LUBA found in the neighbors’ favor, Tonquin Holdings representatives appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals. That court agreed to uphold LUBA's findings.

Jacobs said he and many other nearby landowners want to see the area remain as a place that supports sustainable lifestyles such as neighbor Narendra Varma’s organic farm, Our Table. They also want to see continued support of the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge and the future Tonquin Trail that will run along Tonquin Road, he said.

“This area is really going in the direction we want,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs and 1000 Friends have set up a website at a website and signature-gathering site.

Bob and Mary Collins, who have owned their house and three acres of property off of Tonquin Road since they purchased the land in 1969, said they believe the quarry would have a negative affect on their property.

“I couldn’t sell my property to anybody except the mine so they could set the price,” said Bob Collins, who collects bee honey on his property. “Who wants to buy a home next to a rock crusher?”

However, Tonquin Road is no stranger to rock quarries, with no less than five already located along a thoroughfare that sees a constant stream of rock trucks each day. Still, Jacobs estimates the proposed quarry would add up to 450 additional trips by trucks daily.

“Every few minutes on average, there will be a dump truck,” he said.

Farm owner Varma said he believes the reason for the resubmitted proposal is due to a change in the political makeup of the current Clackamas County Commission, the final arbitrators of the issue before it would go before LUBA. He said it’s a classic “David and Goliath” situation.

So what does Jacobs think the outcome of the proposal will be this time?

“I think it’s like last time, it’s going to be tough because they have so much money,” he said. “For them it’s about money. For us, it’s about our lives.”

Last week, the Wilsonville City Council came out with a draft letter that opposes the quarry.

The Clackamas County Commission will then take up the application at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 16.