Monday, February 25, 2002
Steamboat Springs Routt County planning officials and gravel industry representatives have developed a matrix that will be used to evaluate future gravel pit proposals.
On Monday afternoon, the Routt County Board of Commissioners reviewed the matrix, which took a committee 15 months to devise.
The committee created the matrix, which is not a formal or regulatory document, to help applicants and staff evaluate the impact of proposed mining operations in the county.
County commissioners created the committee in 2000 because of a sense that gravel pit hearings often hinged on opinion instead of fact.
After about an hour of discussion with planning officials and members of the committee, commissioners said the document will be a benefit.
"A lot of hard work has been done," Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. "It will provide us with general information that will help us make decisions as we evaluate gravel pits."
The matrix provides guidelines for analyzing existing and proposed pits for visual impact, reclamation, air and water quality, traffic, land-use compatibility, wildlife and supply and demand.
For every proposed pit, each of these issues will be analyzed and given a rating between 0 and 100, with 100 being the best possible score and 0 the worst. Commissioner Doug Monger said the scores for each issue would be a great help, especially in cases where the county imposes requirements for the company to reduce visual impact or other concerns.
"The scores will help quantify the mitigation requirements to make a proposal an acceptable petition," Monger said.
Monger said the scores would benefit petitioners because strengths and deficiencies will be identified.
"They will know what they need to work on for a proposal to be an acceptable application," he said.
For the past six months, county planning staff members have utilized portions of the matrix but not the entire document, said John Eastman, a county planning official who helped the committee.
Because the Planning Commission and county commissioners have reviewed the document and endorsed it, the matrix will be used immediately for any gravel pit proposal, he said.
Planning staff will also rate each of the county's 21 gravel pits this summer using the document's criteria. The scores from existing gravel pits will be used as a "baseline" to compare future proposals, Eastman said.
One of the most controversial issues county officials and the committee are hopeful the matrix can address is visual impact.
The county plans to use geographic information system software to determine visual impacts. With the technology, a map of a proposed pit will be created, including neighboring residences. By using this technology, county officials will be able to determine which residents are likely to be able to see the gravel pit. Maps showing ranges between a half-mile and three miles will be created.
Proposed pits will also be scored on how close they are to scenic and recreational areas.
County officials do not expect for the guidelines to create additional work for the county's planning department.
Issues such as traffic and air and water quality will be handled by consultants. The Colorado Department of Wildlife is expected to provide information on the wildlife impact issue.