County wants to consider pit proposals together


— The Routt County Board of Commissioners reached a compromise of sort for gravel pit supporters and opponents Thursday night.
The board has decided to wait until they see all the gravel pit plans for South Routt County before they decide which plan is best.
"Is it time to look at all this again?" asked Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak. It might be "time to revisit gravel pits, their impacts and the regulations," she said.
Last night's four-hour session started out with County Commissioner Ben Beall expressing what was coursing through the crowd.
"This is a difficult issue," he said. "Probably one of the most contentious the board has ever covered."
At the center of Thursday's public hearing was a conceptual plan for Lafarge Corp.'s proposed Werner pit on Colorado 131.
The pit is one of six new pits in or headed for the county planning pipeline. The community has been debating the visual and environmental impact that number of pits would have on the Yampa Valley, where eight gravel mines already exist.
"I could have a 120-acre pit across the street but I wouldn't do that, because I love the way the valley looks," said Jim Larson, a local landowner.
Lafarge put on its best corporate face as it tried to convince the commissioners and public that the site on Colo. 131 wouldn't look so bad. And most important, representatives insist, that it is needed.
"It ought to be on a state highway," said Chuck Donley, Lafarge's planning consultant. "They're built to handle heavy trucks."
Donley also pointed out that the proposed site had some of the best gravel in the county.
"As you go further south, the quality of gravel deteriorates," Donley said.
The Lafarge group even put on a slide show that showed photographs of what neighbors would see if the new pit is put in. The photos indicated that neighbors would see very little of the pit and concrete plant.
But that didn't fool some of the audience.
"A lot of pictures were taken at the lowest elevations," local resident Rick John said.
Still, Donely said, the distance between many hillside neighbors and the pits is so far that there would hardly be even visual impact.
Many of the people who spoke said they didn't oppose pits or Lafarge, just the site.
Rancher Mike Holloran made a strong impact with his story, pointing out he and his wife had pits on two sides of their property for 20 to 25 years. The new pit would border his land on the north.
"We don't want another 30 years," he said. "Maybe it's time for it to be in another part of the county."
One thing the commissioners did agree on was that a pit was needed in south Routt County. Lafarge's proposed site at the corner of Werner Lane just might not be the right one.
"We should table the conceptual (Lafarge/Werner plan) until we determine whether it's an appropriate site," Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.
The three commissioners also agreed there should be a study to determine the current and future needs for gravel.
"I can't believe they can't see that already," Lafarge salesman Pete Totman said after the meeting. "We're real disappointed. It wasn't even our final application."
But Stahoviak said tabling Lafarge's application is better than leading the company on. She said if the board approved the conceptual plan with conditions, this might lead Lafarge into thinking it would win approval by just meeting those conditions.
Thursday night's vote could be good news for the two other pit owners wanting to locate in south Routt.
One would be on the More Ranch and the other would be the Yampa Meadows gravel pit located on the Yampa River just south of Steamboat.
They have until Oct. 17 to make official proposals. That's when the county commissioners will revisit the Lafarge proposal.
Meanwhile, Thursday's vote was a partial victory for those who wanted a total moratorium on gravel pits.
"We didn't lose. We didn't win," Vickie Rosenzweig said. "But it's a good decision," she said.
Last night's decision won't affect gravel pits outside south Routt, especially near Hayden.
"They should be judged on their own merits," Commissioner Dan Ellison said.

To reach Frances Hohl, call 871-4208


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