Garfield County to hold public review of quarry operator’s current violations
Garfield County commissioners have scheduled a public review of the Mid-Continent quarry operations, now owned by Rocky Mountain Resources Inc., after a county investigation into alleged violations of county use permits.
The Board of County Commissioners scheduled the review for 6 p.m. April 22, but the location has not yet been determined.
The review of RMR’s compliance with Garfield County permits comes as the company is seeking approval from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to expand the current operations from about 20 acres to 320 acres and operate seven days a week year-round with the aim of removing 5 million tons of rock each year.
Following a complaint last fall from quarry opposition group, the Glenwood Springs Citizen Alliance, county staff began investigating a number of alleged violations in December.
In a report delivered to the Board of County Commissioners Monday, county staff mostly agreed with GSCA that RMR appears to be or has been in violation of five areas of the county’s permit.
The report states that RMR appears to be violating the county’s special use permit by operating in a larger area than allowed, mining unapproved materials, conducting exploratory drilling, processing rock between Dec. 15 and April 15, and not fulfilling all areas of the maintenance agreement, according to Sheryl Bower, community development director for the county.
RMR has previously stated that the quarry was operating on 20.8 acres, more than the 16.4 permitted, when they acquired it from Cal X.
The company ceased processing materials to comply with the county’s requirement that the quarry not process rock between Dec. 15 and April 15.
RMR told the county that the BLM had lifted its own winter restrictions, but during the investigation period the federal agency told the mine that it was still subject to the county’s restriction, according to the report.
Jeff Peterson, a member of the GSCA, asked the commissioners at the meeting to take immediate action to require RMR to “cease and desist all activities outside their permit.”
Six other community members also spoke, including Steve Beckley, owner of the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, which sits to the south above the quarry, and Glenwood Springs City Attorney Karl Hanlon.
Glenwood Springs City Council last week stated its opposition to the quarry expansion plans, and asked for help from Colorado’s Congressional delegation to help block the proposal.
County Attorney Tari Williams noted that cease and desist orders will not be an option for code enforcement, even following a public review.
The county investigators did not find evidence of some violations alleged in the GSCA complaint. The investigators did not verify that RMR was violating dust restrictions, had failed to maintain Transfer Trail, nor that haul trucks had caused unsafe conditions on Traver Trail.
Bower noted that the investigators did not observe the quarry’s dust during the drier months when the site is more active.
The county did not notice unsafe traffic on Traver Trail. However, the 18-wheeler trucks the quarry uses, while not specifically a violation of the special use permit, do have a difficult time staying in their lanes, Bower said.
If the county finds that RMR is in violation of the special use permit during the public review hearing, the commissioners have the option to direct RMR to fix the violations, submit a new land use application, or go through code enforcement processes.
“RMR was very willing to coordinate with us and talk to us about the different things they were doing,” Bower said.
Garfield County’s public review will involve only the county’s special use permit for RMR, and will not look at any application for expansion, BOCC Chairman John Martin said.
RMR has not submitted an application for expansion to the county.
The BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office began reviewing RMR’s most recent proposed plan of operations modification Friday, spokesman David Boyd said.
“If we deem their proposal complete, we will post it online,” Boyd said. “We are still working out the schedule for the environmental review and public comment periods, but they wouldn’t start right away, as we would still need some baseline information. If it is not complete, we will return it to them as we did the last time,” he said.
The BLM returned an earlier application to RMR in December with comments on several areas that needed additional information.
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Garfield County gave another financial boost to the Aspen Valley Land Trust’s efforts to secure a 141-acre Carbondale-area ranch that would maintain its agricultural use and preserve natural riverfront habitat.