Post Independent opinion: Commissioners right to deny asphalt plant
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
We applaud the Garfield County commissioners’ recent decision to deny the Bedrock Resources LLC application to move their asphalt manufacturing plant next to an existing organic farm near Rifle.
Eagle Springs Organic operates in a rural zone district on land that has historically been used for agricultural purposes.
Agriculture operations are a use by right in the county’s rural zone district. An asphalt plant is not.
Thus, Bedrock was required to go through a major impact review and land-use change permit application for its asphalt plant proposal.
In choosing a rural zone for their farm, the Eagle Springs owners, or any farmer or rancher for that matter, should have a reasonable expectation that a potentially harmful business would not be given permission to open up next door.
It seems an existing asphalt plant can find another truck-accessible place to relocate, while the farm cannot pick up and move so easily.
While it was probably difficult for our pro-business commissioners to deny the asphalt plant’s application, they took a positive step to assure that an existing business was not jeopardized by another.
Perhaps most significant in all this, Garfield County is a “right-to-farm” county, as indicated by language in the county land-use code.
Commissioner John Martin referred to this important piece of late 1990s-era legislation before voting along with fellow Commissioner Tom Jankovsky to deny the asphalt plant.
Martin, who happens to be an orchard grower, was a relatively new member of the county commission when the “right-to-farm” resolution was adopted. It essentially gives priority to historic agricultural use of the land when conflicts arise with competing uses, such as rural housing developments or, in this case, heavy industry.
The commissioners’ decision aligns with this philosophy of keeping rural Colorado rural.
As Garfield County reviews its land-use code in an effort to make it more “business-friendly,” we should add that we’d like to encourage the commissioners to retain the right-to-farm language.
Not only is Garfield County’s agricultural heritage worth saving, it’s also valuable to encourage new businesses to carry the tradition forward.
The decision to protect Eagle Springs’ interests also ties in with the rising interest in local food.
It is generally considered healthier to eat foods grown locally and without chemical pesticides. It allows people to become more self-sufficient, builds the local economy and requires much less energy to transport the food to market.
The organic farm is a healthy, nurturing and sustainable business that Garfield County should be proud of. And residents should be thankful that the county commissioners have taken steps to protect it.
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