Planning Commission lukewarm on pit plan

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— Steamboat Gravel Co. needs to present more information on waste-water management and transportation issues if it decides to apply for a special use permit to mine gravel, the Routt County Planning Commission said Thursday.
The gravel company, which is owned by the More Family Ranches LLC, appeared before the planning panel for a preapplication hearing, meant to get insight from commissioners.
Commissioner Fred Nichols told company officials that they need to provide a complete explanation of how water collecting in the mine will be pumped out, treated and where it will go before he would recommend the mine for approval to the Routt County Board of Commissioners.
The rest of the commissioners agreed.
Other issues the commissioners requested information on included how trucks could be loaded with gravel in a way to prevent noise, dust mitigation, supply and demand of gravel in the Yampa Valley, and financial information on the operation of the mine.
The gravel mine would be a 102-acre pit that could yield 8.5 million tons of gravel. It would be located on the More Ranch, east of where Colorado 131 crosses the Yampa River.
Twenty acres are expected to be disturbed at one time by the mine and the company has plans for reclamation of the entire site. When the gravel mine is empty, a 90-acre lake would be in its place.
The Steamboat Gravel pit would be the second gravel mine proposed for the south Yampa Valley.
Lafarge Corp. received a recommendation from the Planning Commission last month to open a gravel pit on Fran Werner's land, on the west side of Colo. 131 near U.S. 40. That was under a condition that the company closes and begins reclaiming its other two mines in the same area.
Lafarge will go in front of Routt County Board of Commissioners on Aug. 10 to seek conceptual approval for the mine. It will then go back through the planning process.
Commissioners were dubious about the necessity of two pits in south Routt.
"I think we've seen two very reasonable proposals for gravel pits," Planning Commission Chairman Troy Brookshire said. "But I don't think I can support two pits on the south side of the county."
It is in the public's interest to have a pit south of Steamboat, he said. Brookshire, pointed out that a project to widen Colo. 131 would take large amounts of gravel.
The gravel pit discussion wasn't without public comment against the proposal.
Attorney Claire Sollars represented Ervin and Jane O'Dell, who own property adjacent to the More Ranch.
"They are not in favor of this operation," she said.
The O'Dells are concerned about the impact on water, visibility and dust issues.
Ken Solomon also spoke out against the mine. He represented home owners at the Timber Preserve subdivision, which is above the pit on Rabbit Ears Pass.
"A gravel pit will reduce the sell-ability of your home by 10 to 15 percent," he said.
Furthermore, the pit goes against sections of the South of Steamboat and Routt County master plans relating to protection of gateway areas, air quality and visual impacts, Solomon said.
Despite the public comment, commissioners liked the site's low-key location, saying it keeps visual impacts down.
"I do believe that this site is a great site, when you hold it up to some of the plan's we've discussed," Brookshire said.
Commissioner Shelly Bauman agreed.
"If we do need another gravel pit, I think this is a great location," she said.
Diane Mitsch Bush, who has voted against the last two gravel pit proposals, added that it is difficult to make a decision on mines.
"We have a real problem with cumulative impacts," she said. "They're hard to measure."
She identified the need for the county to have a more specific plan for gravel pits. All the commissioners agreed.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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