Contractor’s yard approved despite organic farm concerns
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a contractor’s yard and asphalt recycling operation southeast of Rifle, despite continuing concerns about possible impacts on an adjacent organic farm.
“I do believe that both of these businesses can coexist,” Commissioner Mike Samson said after several supporters of the proposal by Bedrock Resources/Frontier Paving suggested the threats to the Eagle Springs Organic farm were being overblown.
In addition to placing an office, shop and equipment storage on the 35-acre site, Bedrock plans to stockpile recycled asphalt and concrete material.
Bedrock owner Charles Ellsworth agreed to limit crushing operations to four weeks out of the year during the nongrowing season, in an attempt to lessen the potential for particulate matter to blow onto the neighboring farm operation.
Numerous other conditions were also placed on the approval, from berming between the two properties to cut down on noise, to limits on the amount of recycled material that can be stockpiled on the site.
“Both of these companies are very important to our county,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said. “Because of my wife, I do eat organic about every day, and I believe in local food.
“And you’ve done it in a location that can be very difficult,” he said, noting that the farm is also situated near the Garfield County airport, as well as numerous natural gas and other industrial operations.
Jankovsky joined in a February vote to deny Bedrock’s earlier plans to put an asphalt manufacturing plant on the same site, due to the potential for plant emissions impacting Eagle Springs’ organic certification.
“I do believe that decision was justified,” Jankovsky said. “But I also believe there can be compatibility with these uses.”
Eagle Springs owner Ken Sack, along with several farm managers and local food supporters maintained that asphalt storage and crushing would still pose a threat to the farm’s ability to maintain its organic status.
A contractor’s yard is fine, he said, as long as it’s limited to offices, a shop and equipment storage. But asphalt recycling is a concern, he said.
“I do support recycling, but this is an inappropriate location for this type of material,” Sack said, pointing to studies showing that used asphalt, when crushed, can release hazardous particulates into the air.
Sack’s attorney, Tim Thulson, pointed to the county’s right-to-farm provisions, which say adjacent land uses that could adversely affect agricultural operations should not be allowed.
“If their organic certification is pulled, it’s over for the farm,” Thulson said.
But commissioners, along with several of Bedrock’s supporters, pointed out that the farm has been able to thrive and maintain its organic certification amid oil and gas operations.
The farm passed its most recent inspection earlier this summer, “with zero deficiencies, which is almost unheard of,” according to Sack.
Around that same time, the main energy company operating in the area, Antero Resources, was in the process of drilling new gas wells, the county’s oil and gas liaison, Kirby Wynn, confirmed when asked by Jankovsky.
“They chose that piece of property to develop an organic farm, and they’ve shown they can be compatible with industrial uses all around,” said longtime Divide Creek rancher Dick Morgan. “I see no reason why these two aren’t compatible.”
Following the commissioners’ decision, Sack remained skeptical that the restrictions on the crushing operations will help.
“We’ll be monitoring them to see if there’s any kind of overflow onto our property,” he said. “Hopefully they can control the emissions.”
Sack also said he will continue to explore his legal options to try to keep the asphalt recycling operations from going forward.
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