P&Z approves gravel pit near Carbondale
It took more than four hours for a panel of six citizen planners to do it, but the Garfield County Planning and Zoning Commission this week recommended approval for a proposed expansion of the Western Slope Aggregate gravel pit near Carbondale.The 4-2 vote came after a roomful of neighbors of the existing pit urged the panel to recommend denial based on a wide-ranging array of issues.Most of those speaking in opposition to the plan were members of the Crystal Springs Coalition and residents of the Wooden Deer subdivision, located just uphill to the north of the expansion zone on property owned by the Blue family.The only person to speak in favor of the proposal was Cassie Cerise, whose family is expected to propose a LaFarge gravel pit on land they own next door to the Blue family, on the eastern side of the junction of Highway 82 and County Road 103, also known as Crystal Springs Road.Another existing pit, operated by LaFarge on the western side of the County Road 103 junction, is due to shut down soon after more than three decades of operation.The Blue pit proposal now goes before the board of county commissioners.At the Aug. 11 meeting of the P&Z, Garfield County Planning Dir. Fred Jarman reported that the expansion proposal would add 64 acres of new gravel mining operations to the existing 82.7-acre pit that has been in business since 1981. The pit has been run by Western Slope Aggregates, which also would be in charge of the expansion.The overall mining operation would comprise 146.7 acres of actual mining and related activities on the site, which takes up approximately 289 acres in all. The Blue have signed a 40-year lease with the pit’s operator, Bill Roberts of WSA.According to Jarman’s presentation, the dust noise and fumes generated by the operation are supposed to be contained within the “extraction site” and not “negatively affect” surrounding property.In addition, he said, the number of truck trips leaving and entering the expanded operation are predicted to “stay Gravel 2the same” as the number of truck trips generated by the existing pit.But the neighbors packing the meeting room argued that the dust, the noise, the traffic congestion and the damage to their views of Mt. Sopris and the valley are all unacceptable, particularly if they go one for 40 years or more.One neighbor, John Fitch, suggested the P&Z cut the proposed pit in half, leaving untouched the northern acreage closest to the Wooden Deer homes.”It’s our quality of life against their … I don’t know if you want to call it greed, but there’s a lot of money involved here.”Some members of the commission appeared uncomfortable with the projections offered by the proponents of the pit, about such things as the life expectancy of the operation.”It sounds to me like we could be talking 60-100 years,” remarked commissioner Greg McKennis, referring to the potential that a slow market would mean the pit would not be emptied out as quickly as by a busy building market.But the applicants said the lease term is the controlling factor.Attorney Jody Edwards, speaking for the 78 members of the Coalition, suggested the county put the application on hold for now, since there are still 9-15 years or more worth of gravel in the existing pit.He noted that there could be many changes in that period of time, both in terms of mining technology and local land use regulations, and suggested the county might regret it if the expansion request is granted now.Although the Blue pit was the one being considered, Jarman brought up the expected application for the Cerise gravel pit next door, which proponents say would operate for about 15 years but critics fear would be there for more like 30 years.But, Jarman told the P&Z, “the county needs to be very careful when it looks at applications that are stacking up” and are located in the same area.”That gets to the cumulative impact discussion, which I think is an important discussion,” he said. But for now, he told the commissioners, they need to be thinking only about the Blue pit.Some members of the commission, in sympathy with the neighbors plight, asked the planning staff to search for ways to ensure that once the pit is mined out and reclaimed, the land will remain in agricultural use in firstname.lastname@example.org
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