County planning board delays decision on landfill proposal
The Garfield County Planning Commission deadlocked Wednesday night over whether to allow landfills as a special use in the county’s largest zone district.
Under consideration was a proposal by Dee and Jean Blue of Carbondale for a zone text amendment to allow landfills as a special use in the Agricultural Rural Residential District. The district covers about 70 percent of the county’s private land.
Behind the proposal is a plan to use shredded construction waste to fill in a 73-acre gravel pit on County Road 104 near Carbondale. The property is owned by the Blues and the pit is operated by Bill Roberts, owner of Western Slope Aggregates and Earthworks Construction.
In a series of votes, the commissioners first rejected a motion to deny the proposal, then deadlocked over a motion to approve it. A third vote to table the decision, giving the commissioners more time to consider the proposal, passed 5-1 with commissioner Mike Deer casting the lone dissenting vote.
The planning commissioners will take up the matter again at their April 10 meeting.
County planning staff recommended denial of the proposal. County planner Kim Schlagel said the 2000 comprehensive land use plan does not address landfills. The county lacks regulations governing landfill location, design, operation and reclamation.
“Staff feels allowing landfills as a special use in this zone is premature,” Schlagel said. The county would first need a thorough study and specific regulations, he said.
Allowing landfills as a special use, subject to annual review by the Board of County Commissioners, would “create a lot of flexibility and opportunity to explore alternatives for solid waste disposal in our county,” said Glenwood Springs attorney Glenn Harsh, representing the Blues and Roberts.
About 20 neighbors of the gravel pit, notably from the Wooden Deer and Ranch at Roaring Fork subdivisions, spoke out against the proposal. Most concerns focused on the gravel pit being used as a landfill.
Planning Commission Chairman Ray Schmahl reminded speakers to address the issue at hand, which was the zone text amendment. Such an amendment would open the door for a specific application to open a landfill at the Carbondale gravel pit.
Residents said current truck traffic to and from the gravel pit and nearby cement batch plant is noisy enough, without adding more truck traffic.
“I’m vehemently opposed to having a dump right there,” said Ranch at Roaring Fork resident Jay Densmore.
Carbondale planner Janet Buck voiced a concern of the town trustees that such an operation would impact water quality in the town’s wells on the floodplain of the Roaring Fork River downstream of the gravel pit.
“There should be a countywide plan and you should create standards (for landfills),” Buck said.
Glenwood Springs City Councilman Dan Richardson urged the commission to deny the request.
“I applaud Mr. Roberts’ proposal. He is thinking out of the box. But from our perspective of ownership of a landfill, if this landfill is allowed in the ARRD zone it could mean early closure of landfills. None of us are prepared for the $2 million to $6 million it would take to close them,” he said.
Pitkin County landfill manager Miles Stotts agreed, noting that added competition from a new landfill could put waste recycling programs at the region’s other landfills in a financial squeeze.
Planning Commissioner Cheryl Chandler suggested the county consider adding landfill requirements and identify landfill locations in the comprehensive plan.
Commissioner Deer voiced his support for the Blues’ request.
“All the applicant is asking for is an opportunity to come in with a full-blown request. I believe I’m in the minority, but to dictate land use is not very appetizing to me,” he said.
After the deadlocked vote, Commissioner Rolly Fischer moved to table a decision until the April meeting.
“I think the board could argue ad infinitum,” he said.
He suggested the commission take some time to consider the proposal further.
County attorney Don DeFord advised the commission it has 60 days “to tender a response” to the Blues’ proposal.
The commissioners will also take more public comment at the April 10 meeting.
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