YONCALLA — Yoncalla area residents made clear Thursday that their response to a proposed explosives storage facility was this: Not in my backyard.
About 50 people showed up to a meeting of the North County Planning Advisory Committee at Yoncalla Community Center Thursday.
Representatives of Dyno Nobel spoke about their proposal to locate a commercial explosives and storage operation on a parcel west of Rice Valley Road, 2 miles west of Rice Hill and 4 miles southwest of Yoncalla.
Dyno Nobel hopes to store explosives there that would be used by local customers in the rock quarrying business, as well as contractors who build logging roads. Representatives of the company presented their plan, and endeavored to assure residents that the facility would not be dangerous to its neighboring properties.
They faced a tough crowd.
Many spoke in opposition to the idea, voicing fears of explosions, fires and lowered property values.
At times, the exchange grew testy. One woman complained loudly about the lead presenter’s thick Scottish accent. Another accused the presenters of lying about the company’s safety record.
Several people suggested that Dyno Nobel had made its decision solely based on what made good sense financially for the company, and without regard for the financial harm to residences nearby. They worried that potential buyers of their properties would refuse to sign on the dotted line if they had to tell them about the explosives storage in the area.
One man predicted the proposed facility would lower the neighboring property values 25 to 30%.
“If you’ve got to disclose to a potential buyer that you’re next to a hazardous or near a hazardous site and that buyer’s got to sign something saying they know that it’s there, that property is going to really fall in value for all of us forever, as long as you’re there,” he said.
He urged the company to purchase a piece of property elsewhere.
“It fits your economic needs, it’s where you want it to be, but we shouldn’t have to lose out because it helps you. You should buy a piece of property that fits what you need away from the people,” the man said.
“If you want this so bad, why don’t you buy all of us out,” a woman shouted, “that’s what you should do. You want our property? You buy us out.”
Dyno Nobel is a global company whose parent company is based in Australia. Its North American headquarters is in Salt Lake City. Scottish Canadian Craig Nicolson, regional operations manager for the company, said theirs is one of the most regulated industries in America and safety is its top concern.
Another company representative, Rick Grove, said there won’t be any raw ammonium nitrate at the site. Instead, it will be stored in a form that contains enough liquid to give it the consistency of yogurt and make it fire resistant. He said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sets strict requirements, including a provision that the storage facility be at least 2,500 feet from any residence.
“I’m not a corporate guy. I’m a boots on the ground manager, that I’ve worked my way up, worked with my employees like they’re my family. With the company zero harm is our goal. Safety is our number one concern, and I have employees that I’m very fond of and close to that I respect them and their safety is important to me,” Grove said. He said he feels perfectly safe with the company’s practices.
The explosives on the site would only be stored, not detonated there, and the detonators contain chips and can only be detonated with software the company owns.
The company representatives said they did not know what the impact of the project would be on property values.
The PAC took no vote and made no recommendation about the project. It will next be taken up by the Douglas County Planning Commission, which is scheduled to hold a hearing on the proposal at 7 p.m. July 18 in Room 216 of the Douglas County Courthouse, 1036 SE Douglas Ave., Roseburg.