Connell gets 3-year mining extension

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— Several landowners west of Steamboat Springs have been asking for several years if and when mining operations would ever leave their backyard.

They got an answer Thursday evening.

The Routt County Planning Commission gave Connell Resources Inc. three more years to mine any remaining gravel from its pit that sits about seven miles west of Steamboat Springs on the north side of U.S. 40.

Connell Resources asked Routt County for a 10-year extension on its special-use permit to mine gravel at the Thompson Pit.

Planning commissioners rejected its request on grounds that another 10 years was inappropriate when materials in the pit are set to run out in about three years.

"Ten years would be way out of line," Planning Commissioner Donna Hellyer said.

When the county approved a special-use permit for Connell Resources in 1992, estimates showed the pit could produce enough raw materials to continue operating up to 19 years.

Recent estimates, however, show raw materials should only last another three to five years in the pit.

Connell Resources wanted to extend the pit's operation by more than three years by trucking in rock from other gravel pits to use in its asphalt plant, wash plant and a potential concrete plant.

Gravel importation would allow the company to fully utilize all of the resources at the pit, area manager Tony Connell said.

"We invest in this community," Connell said. "We would like to continue to operate."

The Planning Commission decided Connell Resources should be allowed to mine only the gravel that remains.

Importing gravel, planning commissioners and landowners argued, would conflict with zoning requirements.

Connell Resources operates in an agricultural district. A manufacturing facility that brings in a majority of its raw materials is generally found in an industrial zone district, not an agricultural district, said John Kerst, whose property sits north of the site.

He encouraged the Planning Commission to give Connell Resources only enough time to clear out the remaining gravel.

"Let them take what's there out," he said. "But let it go."

Property owners such as Kerst were concerned an extension would perpetuate visual impacts as well as noise and traffic along U.S. 40.

The gravel pit creates an eyesore for those who live nearby.

The Planning Commission agreed Connell Resources should be allowed to disturb only 25 acres at a time and reclamation efforts should be gradually implemented.

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