Quarry Train

A train passes Tuesday in early March off Interstate 84 near Perry, the site of a proposed 250-acre quarry that would ship 2,000 tons of material per day. The Union County Planning Commission voted against the proposal March 22, and the property owner withdrew the application ahead of the county board of commissioners’ vote Wednesday, April 6.

UNION COUNTY — James Smejkal of Banks withdrew his application for a rock quarry off Robbs Hill Road before Union County commissioners could vote on Wednesday morning, April 7.

The Union County Planning Commission on March 22 voted to recommend the county commissioners reject Smejkal’s application, citing the staff report that found numerous deficiencies in the 400-plus pages of the document. The county board had scheduled a public hearing to consider the application for the rock quarry about a mile from Perry. The quarry would have been at least 250 acres.

But Bill Kloos, legal counsel representing Smejkal, formally withdrew the application, according to information from Union County.

Commissioner Matt Scarfo, chair of county board, would not say how he would have voted on the application, and Commissioner Donna Beverage said she was uncertain if she could address that.

The Observer was not able to confirm an answer from Commissioner Paul Anderes, before deadline Wednesday.

Steve West of La Grande, a member of the application team for the Robbs Hill Rock Quarry project, said the withdrawal is only temporary. He said the team wants to regroup and submit a better application.

“This project is not dead, and I want to thank the incredible number of people locally who support the project,” West said in a statement to The Observer.

West said one of his personal goals is to get out fact-based information to the public to offset what he said is disinformation from a small number of people who oppose the project.

Stop Robbs Hill Quarry Sign

A sign protesting the Robbs Hill Quarry hangs on a fence outside an abandoned factory in La Grande on Friday, March 19, 2021. Three days later the Union County Planning Commission recommended the county board of commissioners deny the application for the quarry, which was withdrawn by the property owner for revision before the commissioners’ meeting.

“They truly represent a small percentage of the county’s population, but they are loud and get heard,” he said.

He said he believes a detailed public information campaign that outlines the facts will change public opinion and silence critics. West said the rock quarry project will be approved in the near future if such a public information campaign is undertaken.

But the real work would have to be a better application.

County Planning Director Scott Hartell for the March 22 planning commission hearing delivered a 17-page report that went through the Smejkal application and found it lacking throughout, beginning with proving a public need for the rock quarry.

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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