Board gives gravel pit preliminary approval

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— The Routt County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a conceptual special use permit for the newest Camilletti & Sons gravel pit south of Milner. First, though, the board put the developers on notice that it expects the final application to address public concerns.
Last night's vote does not mean Camilletti & Sons has permission to begin mining the 50-acre site bounded by the confluence of Trout Creek and the Yampa River, about 12 miles west of Steamboat Springs. It must still submit an application for a final special use permit. And during the interim, the commissioners expect the Camillettis to take steps to mitigate concerns expressed by the public during Tuesday night's four-and-a-half hour public hearing.
Commission Chairman Ben Beall said he won't give his final approval for the Camilletti gravel pit or any of the others pending before the county until planning staff is able to compile a "matrix" that takes a broad overview of the cumulative impacts of gravel pits throughout the county.
County government is currently dealing with three applications for new gravel pits, and several more are reportedly poised to enter the planning process.
"I would look for us to spend some time before these projects go forward," Beall said. "I have some real concerns the county has not developed a matrix that would show us the cumulative impacts. Somehow, we have to try and do that, to see what gravel pits are necessary and where they should be put."
For example, Beall said he wants to know more about the impacts gravel pits are having on the Yampa River system.
Beall said his comments shouldn't be misinterpreted as being anti gravel pit.
"We all love the valley it's a beautiful place. Do we need more gravel pits? Sales right now are about one million tons (of gravel annually). Growth isn't going to stop. We have to find out how best to develop a resource that's a community need," Beall said.
About 35 members of the public, most of them residents of Milner or Saddle Mountain Ranchettes, where some homes overlook the site of the new pit, spoke at the hearing. They registered their opposition to the new Camilletti pit and questioned why, of the dozen or so pits active in the county today, six are within six miles of their homes.
Saddle Mountain resident Loretta Van Norstrand cited a portion of the County Master Plan that "encourages the separation and sufficient spacing of mining operations to prevent cumulative significant negative impacts to roads and to surrounding areas."
"There are already too many pits," Van Norstrand said. "Why must nearly half of all Routt County gravel pits surround one community? This isn't sufficient spacing. A pit of this size, we don't think is warranted right now. We would like to see facts on how much more gravel Routt County really needs."
James Pavlik told the commissioners he objected to the amount of truck traffic the Camilletti pit will generate along a short stretch of County Road 179, where many Milner residents walk and ride bikes. Pavlik said the 279 people living in Milner lack any formal recreational facilities, but they can at least take a quiet walk down C.R. 179 to enjoy the scenery where Trout Creek pours into the Yampa.
"This will absolutely take that away from them," Pavlik said.
Jib Venti said he believed the gravel pit would pose a threat to the rare cottonwood forests that surround the Camilletti site on three sides. Cottonwoods are dying in the vicinity of other gravel pits west of Steamboat because the pits deplete the ground water available to sustain the trees, Venti contends.
Van Norstrand also asked for assurances that the Camilletti pit won't affect the flow rates in neighboring wells that residents depend upon.
Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak heard the concerns of the neighbors and included many of them in the conditions she placed upon her motion to approve the conceptual special use permit. Those conditions include:
* More study on the impact that de-watering of the gravel pit could have on neighboring vegetation, including cottonwood trees.
* Establishing a maximum annual tonnage of gravel extraction below the 300,000 tons being proposed by Camilletti & Sons, but allowing them to seek a special administrative permit to reach that level under special circumstances.
* Ongoing monitoring of water quantity in neighboring wells.
* Prohibiting southbound hauling of gravel on C.R. 179 during hours when school buses are operating in the area.
* Working with the planning staff and Division of Wildlife to mitigate wildlife impacts.
The dates of future hearings on the Camilletti gravel pit proposal have not been set.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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