Possible traffic, odor and crime have residents worried
A scrub-laden 20-acre parcel of land about four miles to the east of Bend’s urban growth boundary is ground zero in the first appeal of a Oregon marijuana-related land use decision in Deschutes County.
Rogelio Rubio, who bought the land in June, wants to build a three-building, 11,670-square-foot marijuana production facility on the property, which is off of Alfalfa Market Road. Deschutes County Community Development officials approved the development, but area neighbors appealed the decision, saying the odor, lights, traffic and noise would be a detriment to the rural lifestyle in the neighborhood.
“It’s going to affect our quality of life, our homes, and very likely our property values too,” said Monika Piatt, who filed the appeal in January with her husband, Lance. The Piatts’ three-acre lot abuts Rubio’s property.
The appeal by the neighbors, which will be heard Monday by the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners, is the first of its kind in Deschutes County since recreational use of marijuana became legal in Oregon in 2015.
Rubio initially intended to build a house on the parcel — and said he still plans to do that someday — but the current cost of building a house in Deschutes County gave him pause. Rather than let the land sit vacant, Rubio said he wanted to build something that would generate revenue: a marijuana grow operation.
Piatt, who moved into the neighborhood two and a half years ago, said she and her husband represent around 30 neighbors to the east of Bend. Most of her neighbors have lived in the area for years, often moving there from other parts of Central Oregon for a more rural lifestyle, Piatt said.
“As Bend is growing, people are moving out this way to have some space around them,” Piatt said. “Unfortunately, that includes the growers.”
Jacob Ripper, associate planner with the Deschutes County Community Development Department, said residents have 12 days to formally appeal a land use decision made by Deschutes County staff. While many decisions about Oregon marijuana growing operations in Deschutes County have been the subject of backlash from neighbors, Ripper said none have been formally appealed until the Piatts filed theirs on Jan. 17.
The four-page appeal filed with the county raises a variety of concerns, including waste disposal, gray water removal and a fear that the facility will not have adequate security.
“As this facility is vacant and no residence (exists) on this property, what security cameras and methods will be in place? Crime, trespassing and theft are concerns,” according to the appeal.
Ripper said county codes already address many of the neighborhood’s concerns, requiring applicants to hire a mechanical engineer to confirm that the facility’s odor and noise mitigation technology will comply with county code. Ripper added that staff can determine to hold an initial hearing, but that he didn’t feel it was necessary in this situation.
“In this case, it appeared that the applicant met all the criteria,” Ripper said.
He added that the board will decide whether to approve the application or amend it by late spring, following a 21-day comment period and a deliberation period between the Deschutes County Commissioners.
For his part, Rubio said he’d like to work with neighbors who have concerns. He expects the board of commissioners to approve the Community Development Department’s decision, and hopes to break ground on the property within two months of the county’s decision.
“If it’s not us, it might be someone else across the street,” Rubio said.
While she said she hopes the property will address her concerns on odor, traffic and other aspects, Piatt admitted that her ideal situation would be to not have the Oregon marijuana production facility adjacent to her home at all.
“Our first choice would be that we don’t want it there at all,” she said.
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