Cit says no to gravel pit

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— The Steamboat Springs City Council does not want to see a gravel pit at the city's east entrance, even if it means more trucks coming through the downtown.

In its recommendation to Routt County, the council unanimously agreed to not support the Lafarge gravel pit.

Lafarge is asking the county to allow a 128-acre gravel pit six miles south of Steamboat on Colorado Highway 131. The largely open agricultural land is part of the More Family Ranch and visible from Rabbit Ears Pass.

Council members said they did not want to disturb the view coming down into the valley and asked Lafarge to look at other alternatives further south.

"You have to look a little harder and a lot more thoroughly before we take what we have as our environmental crown jewel and destroy it forever," Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner said.

The gravel pit would replace Lafarge's two other gravel pits in the south valley. It would largely serve the southern half of the county and cut down on trips made from gravel pits west of town.

The decision was not without comprise. Some city council members worried about Lafarge's claim that moving the gravel pit from the south valley could mean an additional 30 to 35 additional truck trips per hour on Lincoln Avenue during peak construction season.

Councilman Bud Romberg said the proposal puts two community objectives at odds: preserving the entrance of Steamboat and limiting traffic through the downtown.

"I think those two things are in conflict," Romberg said. "Whatever you do, you've got a problem."

But Council President Kathy Connell called Lafarge's claims a "scare tactic" and suggested other alternatives existed in the south valley that would not disrupt the view corridor.

Councilman Paul Strong supported his no vote with the Steamboat Springs Community Plan, which he said recommends preserving the area as open space.

"I hate to be the Jacques Chirac of gravel pits in the south valley and say no regardless of the proposal," Strong said. "It is probably the best proposal you could get, but it goes against the community plan."

Although the gravel pit received an above-average cumulative score on the county-created gravel matrix comparing the county's 21 gravel pits, that was not sufficient for council members.

"The most critical criteria on the matrix are not being met," Councilwomen Nancy Kramer said.

The Lafarge gravel pit received below-average rankings in visual, air and water quality issues, and wildlife issues were only slightly above what Strong called a very low average.

The gravel pit received above-average scores for its reclamation, traffic and land use issues.

Council's recommendation is a small piece in the approval process. The plans will go before the Routt County Planning Commission Thursday night and the County Commissioners on April 22.

The proposal is for five gravel pits within the 128-acre site and a permanent concrete plant. It would also have a seasonal crushing and screening plant, washing plant and asphalt batch plant that would operate on the site during the construction months.

Lafarge proposes an open-cut mining operation for sand and gravel. The pit is to be opened for 12 to 15 years and five lakes totaling 66 acres will be placed on the land after the gravel is mined.


-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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