Stop the Dump Coalition v. Yamhill County

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Land Use
  • Date Filed: 11-10-2015
  • Case #: 2015-036
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Opinion by Bassham
  • Full Text Opinion

ORS 215.296(1) requires a local government to find that a proposed use will not force significant changes in accepted farm practices, or significantly increase the cost of such practices, on land surrounding the use; in evaluating potential forced changes or cost increases, a local government cannot disregard opponent testimony merely because the testimony does not quantify a cost increase or the precise nature and extent of changes in accepted farm practices, nor can a local government shift the burden of demonstrating noncompliance with ORS 215.296(1) to the opponent.

Stop the Dump Coalition, Willamette Valley Wineries Association, and Ramsey McPhillips, petitioners, challenged the county’s decision approving site design review and granting a floodplain development permit to authorize the expansion of intervenor-respondent Riverbend Landfill Co.’s (Riverbend) existing landfill on land zoned Exclusive Farm Use (EFU). Friends of Yamhill County intervened on behalf of petitioners. Riverbend proposed to add two new landfill modules on land qualifying as high-value farmland, one module to the north and the other southwest of the existing landfill site, and to increase the height of the berms around five existing modules. The existing landfill is projected to reach capacity in 2017, whereas the proposed additions would add fifteen years of capacity to the site. Following the county’s partial approval of Riverbend’s proposal (one of the proposed modules was denied), petitioners appealed.

In their third assignment of error, petitioners argued that the record does not include any evidence that Riverbend has a current DEQ permit to authorize the continued operation of a landfill, and that the facility’s 1999 DEQ permit expired in 2009. Riverbend and the county responded by citing a letter in the record from DEQ noting that the landfill’s 1999 permit had been “administratively extended,” and LUBA determined that that was adequate to ensure compliance with ORS 215.283(2)(k) and Yamhill County Zoning Ordinance 402.02(V) (requiring a DEQ permit for a solid waste disposal facility on EFU-zoned land). Petitioners’ fifth assignment of error challenged, in part, the county’s finding of compliance with ORS 215.296(1) with respect to nuisance birds and other impacts of the landfill. LUBA sustained the fifth assignment of error, having determined that the county had committed several analytical and methodological flaws, had imposed too high of an evidentiary standard on opponents to the landfill, and had discounted their testimony. REMANDED.