Garfield commissioners vote to deny asphalt plant
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County commissioners voted 2-1 Monday against allowing an asphalt plant to relocate next to an organic farm southeast of Rifle, over concerns that the two uses may not be compatible.
“It makes us really happy to see all of the community support,” said Ken Sack, owner of the Eagle Springs Organic farm. Dozens of supporters rallied in front of the county administration building in Glenwood Springs at noon, then packed the commissioners’ meeting room.
“The commissioners did the right thing,” Sack said. “It will go a long way to keep this organic farm going and bringing great food to Colorado and the people of this county. An asphalt plant there would have affected the farm dramatically.”
Bedrock Resources LLC had proposed to move its existing asphalt plant from southeast of Silt to a new 35-acre site it had bought near the Garfield County Regional Airport.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky reversed his earlier stance in which he said he was prepared to vote in favor of moving the plant to the new location.
After first considering the issue on Feb. 6, and again at a continued public hearing on Feb. 21, Jankovsky said at Monday’s special meeting that there’s no way to know what impact the plant might have on the Eagle Springs Organic farm until after the plant is operating.
The farm is located just east and downwind from the proposed plant site. The farm operators have said plant emissions, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, could affect the organic certification for its produce and livestock.
“I do have strong philosophical beliefs about private property rights, and that owners should be able to do what they want on their property, within reason,” Jankovsky said.
“In an ideal world, I’d like to have an asphalt plant next to an organic farm and have all things work out,” he said.
But an adjacent asphalt plant might hurt the farm’s ability to sell its products, he said.
“In that case, it is an adverse effect,” Jankovsky said.
Attorney Dave Smith, representing Charles and Damian Ellsworth of Bedrock Resources and their partner company, Frontier Paving, said the decision was disappointing.
The company purchased the 35-acre site along County Road 315 (Mamm Creek) east of the airport in hopes of earning permission to put the plant there. The plant currently operates on leased property east of Silt as part of a gravel pit operation, which is scheduled to close in the near future.
“We will have to look at the options for that property,” Smith said of the Mamm Creek site.
Commissioner Mike Samson offered the motion to approve the plant. He included a long list of conditions aimed at controlling plant emissions, and said the county could also revoke the permit if any pollution found its way into farm produce.
“I know there are some people who don’t want natural gas production in this county, or who don’t want asphalt batch plants in this county,” Samson said. “But that’s not being reasonable at all.”
Commissioner John Martin sided with Jankovsky, saying the county should “err on the side of good judgment.”
Sack said he was prepared to file a lawsuit if the asphalt plant had been approved. His attorney, Scott Balcomb, said at a meeting last week that Garfield County’s land-use codes are clear that land-use changes in rural zone districts “shall not adversely affect” existing agricultural operations.
The decision came as good news to the 70 or so people who turned out in support of local, organic food production.
“There is a growing effort in our valley to re-establish agriculture and local food production,” said Brook Le Van, executive director at Sustainable Settings, which runs an organic farm south of Carbondale.
“At some point we have to pay attention to toxicity in our environment,” he said in an interview after the meeting. “The organic movement is coming from people who are wanting health again. And they’re willing to pay more money upfront for their food instead of paying for chemo later.”
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.