Final Statement from Don’t Uproot Ashland to the Hearings Officer

REBUTTAL TO VEGTER SUBMISSIONS TO 1/22/2019

Submitted by Dr. Denise Krause

Supplemental materials submitted post-hearing by both parties

with page numbers assigned by Jackson County

In addition to our legal position, we rebut the following:

Vegter Statement, Page 698

In Ms. Vegter’s January 22 letter she referenced the “ongoing efforts” Bill Meyers at DEQ has “acknowledged.”  She further states that he has “noted” the “annual rye regrowth.”  

In reality and in the documented files, Mr. Meyers has repeatedly expressed concern, not support.  These statements are further refuted by the following information in ODA’s Agricultural Water Quality Program: Compliance Investigation Report – new evidence (12/20/2019)

At risk: Sediment 603-095-1440(2), Page 666

Excessive Soil Erosion. (a) There shall be no visible evidence of erosion resulting from agricultural management in a location where erosion has contributed or will contribute sediment to waters of the state…

There has already been extensive erosion resulting from agricultural mismanagement by the owners on this property that has compromised the TID canal — first from the unpermitted excavation and then unpermitted construction of ag facilities. This has been well documented by the DEQ and is clearly visible by examining aerial maps, all of which has been presented to the Hearings Officer. Furthermore, according to the ODA, “Bare ground associated with the chicken run and pig areas has the potential to have surface runoff carry sediment downslope.” These are not rye pastures as Ms. Vegter would like everyone to think.

At risk: Waste. 603.095.1440(5), Page 667

No person subject to these rules shall violate any provision of OFS 468B.025 or ORS 468B.050.

ODA stated again that, “Bare ground associated with the chicken run and pig areas has the potential to have surface runoff carry sediment downslope.” Site selection presents numerous challenges for this type of operation which would be better suited in a flat agricultural area away from homes, businesses, public and private water sources.

12/19/18, Page 668

ODA three areas of concern: (1) area below the chicken house, (2) area below the farm road with pigs and, (3) the compost area

Uproot Meats has been operating for 2+ years without having addressed these issues, obviously compromising water quality. They have been selling their meat at Growers’ Markets in Medford and Ashland and selling to the public and to restaurants.

12/18/18, Page 671

  1. “The landowners explained that they currently have 37 pigs on site and will be butchering 15 soon… They explained that they have 300 to 400 chickens that have access inside and outside of the chicken building… The landowners explained that they currently process 20 to 30 chickens a month on site. This results in 25-50 gallons of water that is collected and then poured onto the ground surface through a rock filter. David Hurley (DEQ) informed them that they should not dispose of wastewater in this manner.”

Uproot has been unable to produce numbers of animals that work with an Animal Waste Management Plan for their property. In the meantime, they continue to disregard environmental safeguards and have been improperly disposing of wastewater as cited by DEQ, in spite of being fully aware of the concerns of the neighbors and community.

  • “During prolonged winter rains, it is possible that water could flow downslope from this location — approximately 220 feet to the TID canal from this location.”

No farmer is allowed to introduce contamination to waters of the state or to neighboring properties. Again, Uproot’s choice of site location is the underlying source of contention. Appropriate site selection would not have come with all the challenges this terrain brings with it that compromises public health, safety, and welfare.

  • “The chicken building 125 feet upslope of TID canal… The edge of what is called the chicken run area is approximately 60 feet above the TID canal. There is not exclusion fence in place… bare ground. Manure compost pile (15’ x 15’ x 4, no cover, pig and chicken manure) on south side is 150’ upslope of TID canal. No exclusion fence in place… ground bare.”

Again, although the landowners have been informed of the protections that must be put in place, they have not complied even while under investigation. If granted a permit, we have been told that Mr. Anderson, ODA, will make a site visit every ten months or so. Why would anyone expect that these owners will comply with environmental and health regulations when they are not monitored when history shows time and again just the opposite?

Page 672 – “We then walked upslope to the southwest for DEQ to view previous areas of concern related to the roads and construction related to the previous cannabis area. As we walked observed that there is a manure/compost pile on the south side of the chicken house. The pile was uncovered. The pile is approximately 150 feet upslope of the TID canal. I visually estimated the size of the pile to be 15 feet by 15 feet by 4 feet tall… combination manure from the pigs and chickens… I explained that the concerns were related to the area below the chicken house and run area and the areas with pigs upslope of the TID canal… There was surface runoff flowing downslope along both sides of the driveway. While on site, this runoff was not reaching the TID canal, but during heavier rains it is likely that it does.”

Note: uncovered manure pile reported by ODA on 12/20/2019. Will not be corrected before next site visit on 1/8/2019 (shown below).

To reiterate, no farmer is allowed to introduce contamination to waters of the state or to neighboring properties. This is not negotiable and not possible in this site location. This is an obstacle to land use approval for this use in this site.

Vegter’s Further Submittals:

Lomakatse Report, Pages 688-697

The Lomakatse report submitted deals with restoration attributed to fire damage.

The report does not address devastation to the hillside caused by the landowners. It also undermines Vegter’s position that they are operating or have rye pastures to accommodate their waste manage-ment system. The forest restoration is slated for the same areas as are designated for the hog pens. It’s either pasture or woodland. Ms. Vegter cannot simply create lands and uses she does not have.

Vegter Statement, Page 698

“In response to the potential threat of income loss to our adjacent properties… Our amicable relationship with the winery is not only a positive economic benefit to both small scale farming operations, it presents a thriving opportunity to support the local business and serious threats of diminishing working farms within our EFU communities.”

This amicable and beneficial relationship with the winery is refuted by the statement being submitted by Mr. Weisinger as a follow up to his email below.

Further addressing the “threat of income loss to our adjacent properties.” Uproot has caused significant economic and emotional damages to their nearest neighbor, Hyiah Sirah. There is litigation pending on these matters. Numerous neighbors have submitted letters of concern, written statements requesting denial of the permit, signed the petition, given of their time, effort, and finances to oppose Uproot’s operation, and attended the public hearing. The proposal has the potential to reduce property values not only of nearest neighbors, farms, and businesses, but also of many other citizens who reside in Ashland neighborhoods nearby. To our knowledge there is not one neighbor within a mile radius of Uproot’s property that supports this operation in this site. However, this is not a NIMBY issue. Hundreds of residents of the Rogue Valley are also actively involved in opposing this potentially harmful proposition.

Ms. Vegter statement, Page 698

According to Vegter, “The AWMP will continue to be monitored and overseen by Brandon Schilling, our dedicated livestock management consultant since the summer of 2018. Brandon has completed the entire OSU livestock management series and ran a rotational operation for Standing Stone’s 40+ cow, 30+ sheep and 1500+ chicken farm here in Ashland.”

As per a phone call on 1/28/2019 with the manager of Standing Stone, Standing Stone does not raise chickens and has not for about five years. None of the claims stated regarding Brandon Schilling could be confirmed by Standing Stone nor the OSU website regarding a livestock management series.

Vegter makes statements about sentiments made by fire chiefs. Page 698

According to Vegter, “Since purchase of the property in July 2016, three separate fire inspections have been performed by our 3 fire chief at the time. All three fire chief, unanimously each expressed the appreciation of our efforts in abiding the law and acknowledging our perimeter fuel break responsibility.”

According to Fire District #5, Ms. Vegter has met the minimum requirements only. Fire officials did not express appreciation or commend Uproot’s efforts. On the contrary, it was clearly stated in a phone interview with Fire District #5 that Uproot did only the minimum necessary and that they did nothing that would help protect the neighborhood as claimed, which would involve putting in paved roadway of their own.

Additionally, the fire departments were not made aware by Ms. Vegter that they were using the second floor of the un-permitted slaughter building as an unauthorized residence.

In rebuttal to Vegter’s statement regarding their “efforts in abiding the law”, we state for the record that Ms. Vegter has not been abiding by numerous laws for some time now. She was cited by Jackson County for occupying an unauthorized RV with a grow site on 11/10/2016, and again on 1/20/2017. On 12/29/2018, Ms. Vegter was cited by the County again for the following: “At least four persons are living on the second floor of a poultry processing facility, built without permit, as their unauthorized residence. The structure was built without a permit.” This information was presented at the hearing on January 7, 2019. On the evening of January 13, 2019, a large truck pulled a travel trailer up the steep private driveway easement through the two downhill neighboring properties and is now located in close proximity to the slaughter building, which is not anywhere near the homesite parcel. At night, lights are on in the slaughter building and not in the trailer so it appears that they are still residing on the second floor of the slaughter building. (Photo right)

A current Google maps image (above) shows not only the absence of a travel trailer, but also the absence of a chicken house, which has only been recently constructed, again without a permit. We will also present a date and time-stamped photo showing the travel trailer being pulled up the easement to the property at approximately 6:45 p.m. on 1/13/2019. Even so, a home is not being constructed in the zoned homesite parcel and the travel trailer is nowhere near the homesite parcel.

According to a County Commission Rick Dyer in an email dated 1/28/2019,

A site visit after investigating new complaints of continued work on the unpermitted structure found work was continuing. A Stop Work Order was issued and posted. As part of the required process for issuing a SWO, a bright red placard was placed on the structure and the common driveway gate. This may result in the vocal group of neighbors talking this to the media or making inquiry to our offices.  Additionally a citation was issued for occupancy of an RV without Land Use Approval. The neighbor complaints were for occupancy of the structure of which there was not sufficient evidence to confirm at the site visit.

Regardless of whether they are still living in the slaughterhouse or now in the RV, both are unauthorized uses according to Jackson County policies and regulations. Significant “progress” has been made on both un-permitted buildings even since the appeal process began, as can be seen in the photo above. The siding was done in recent days.

Letters of support, Pages 699-706

Note that there are very few letters in support of Uproot and none from Ashland citizens or neighbors. Furthermore, the letters that were submitted do not address the land use issues at hand, or the criteria.

ODA CAFO Facility Inspection Report, Page 716, 1/8/2019

Livestock inventory still not reported.

Mr. Anderson reviewed AWMP (Animal Waste Management Plan) and documented concerns and ways to address those concerns, stating that he will return on 1/22/2019. He instructed Uproot to cover the exposed compost pile which was cited earlier (12/20/2018) by Kevin Fenn, ODA, still not in compliance.

To reiterate, this is exactly why the County needs to impose conditions and require assurances from the applicant, and it further demonstrates significant impacts to the farm uses of adjacent landowners.

ODA CAFO Facility Inspection Report, Page 715, 1/22/2019

Livestock inventory reported as 25 pigs, 200 chickens.

Same problems with AWMP as documented on 1/8/2019 visit, still not addressed.


//inserted by Sharon