Milner Routt County Regional Planning Commission voted 6-2 Thursday night to recommend approval of a conceptual special use permit for a new gravel pit being proposed by Camilletti and Sons Inc. south of Milner.
The vote came after a nearly five-hour public hearing. The two dissenting votes were cast by Chairman Troy Brookshire and Planning Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush.
The application for the gravel pit goes to the Board of County Commissioners on July 25. But even if it achieves a favorable vote there, it will still come back through the process for two more public hearings before a final special use permit can be granted.
Thursday's meeting was punctuated by sometimes emotional testimony from about 35 of the proposed pit's neighbors in Milner and nearby Saddle Mountain Ranchettes. They told the commissioners about their fears that the gravel pit and resulting truck traffic will change their quality of life in the rural neighborhood. They also expressed concerns it will drive away wildlife, from migrating elk to nesting bald eagles. And they worried about possible impacts to water and air quality.
At its peak, the gravel pit is projected to produce 300,000 tons of gravel annually and generate as many as 30 one-way truck trips in an hour.
"We can see no reason except for Camilletti and Sons financial gain, to have a gravel pits so close," Loretta Van Norstrand told the commissioners. "It's too close to residential property, much too close to the densely populated town of Milner and too close to two important rivers."
The 50- acre gravel pit would be south of the Yampa River adjacent to its confluence with Trout Creek, about a half mile from Milner.
Vicki Ferguson, who lives in Saddle Mountain Ranchettes, said construction of the gravel pit would shatter the silence they've grown accustomed to and change their views forever.
Kent Crofts of IME, a consulting firm that prepared the permit application for Camilletti, said his clients and operator David Zehner of Precision Excavating have demonstrated they can run a clean pit in the five years they've operated an existing pit even closer to Milner. That pit is now close to being mined out.
"We've done our homework about developing a pit that can operate for a long, long time with no constraints," Crofts said. He added that his clients would do whatever the county deemed necessary to make improvements to County Road 179 so it can handle the weight of heavily loaded gravel trucks.
Mitsch Bush said she could not vote for the project until she had more hard data on wildlife impacts and how the gravel pit fits into the Routt County Master Plan.
Brookshire said he believes the Camilletti site is an appropriate site for a gravel pit. However, he was troubled by a portion of the master plan that discourages approval of new gravel pits in areas where there are already a significant number of pits to meet demand. Brookshire said he wants hard data on the cumulative supply of mined gravel already available in west of Steamboat, and how many years that supply is projected to last.
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