By Michael Howell
The County Commissioners heard a proposal for a new auto wrecking yard to be owned and operated by James Gandara on his property north of Corvallis. Gandara stated that dealing with automobiles would actually only be a part of the project which would include many other kinds of metal salvage. After hearing concerns from neighbors in the area related to high groundwater and the fear of contamination as well as some concerns about the condition of the road accessing the property, the Commission decided, and Gandara agreed, to delay his request until ground water monitoring could be completed.
By law the Commissioners are required to consider the effects of such proposals on the neighboring property owners, considering such things as the effect on property values and the potential negative effects on the existing “quality of life” in the neighborhood.
Some of the neighbors attended the meeting and expressed concerns about the potential of groundwater contamination and the poor condition and narrow right of way of the road, Wood Lane, which accesses the property.
Larry Trexler said that the area was a major agricultural area with very high groundwater and that the road was too narrow to handle the increased traffic possibly hauling large and heavy loads.
Kari Trexler said that she has two kids who ride bicycles and take the bus to school and that the road was too narrow to accommodate the traffic safely.
Gandara tried to assure his neighbors that the potential groundwater contamination was being dealt with. He said he had no intention of taking in automobiles that have fluids still in them. Just in case, he is planning on constructing a 40- by 60-foot concrete pad with a closed system drain to collect any gas or oil that might still be in one of the vehicles. That grease and oil trap would be pumped out every two years. He noted that farm equipment and construction equipment used on farms had a much greater chance of contaminating the groundwater through leaks than his set up which is designed to catch all the fluids. He said that the road was not much used.
Commissioner Greg Chilcott stated that the question of the road, its condition and the feasibility of its use, would be dealt with when the issue of lifting the agricultural covenant on the property was addressed. That is a process that Gandara must go through before establishing an industrial use on the property. He said the question about the high groundwater would be addressed by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality as part of the licensing requirements. Auto wrecking yards must be licensed by the state.
Both Commissioners Suzy Foss and Chilcott suggested that it might make more sense to wait until the groundwater monitoring was completed before Gandara spent too much time and money moving forward with the county’s review.
Gandara was agreeable with the delay. He said he appreciated his neighbors’ concerns but that he had the same concerns since he and his children will be living on the property.
“I want to do this right,” he said.
Although it is the DEQ that will decide the ultimate resolution of the license request, the commissioners must write a letter of support or non-support to the agency after considering the effects on the neighborhood.