John Eastman, a planner with the Routt County Planning Department, is the staff contact for the Lafarge gravel pit application.
The county received an overwhelming number of responses to the proposal to place a mining operation in the south valley. Eastman noticed a trend in many of those responses; residents were asking many of the same questions.
The 100-plus people who packed Centennial Hall on April 22 to hear Lafarge's plans presented to the Routt County Board of County Commissioners heard Eastman pose some of the most frequently asked questions before the hearing began. He hoped to give the audience a better understanding of how the county permitting process works before supporters and opponents of the plan testified on the gravel pit application.
Eastman made clear that he was providing facts only, and would leave it to the audience to answer the questions based on the information he provided.
Some of the most frequently asked questions he hears relating to the gravel pit proposal, and the facts he offered to help answer them, are given here.
Is there a Behind the Headlines issue you want to know more about? Let us know. Call the News Desk at 871-4207.
Q. How can a gravel pit even be considered in that location?
A. The proposed location for the Lafarge River Valley Resource Pit sits within an Agriculture/Forestry zone district. The county considers gravel pits a special use in the Agriculture/Forestry zone district.
A Special Use Permit (SUP) is the county's highest level of permit. Routt County is obligated to review any Special Use Permit (SUP) application, including Lafarge's application to mine within 128 acres on the More Ranch.
Q. Don't we have enough gravel pits?
A. According to the Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology, Routt County has 27 pits compared with 15 in Jackson County, 28 in Moffat County, 19 in Garfield County, 20 in Grand County, five in Summit County, 16 in Eagle County, 46 in Larimer County, two in Pitkin County and 13 in Teller County.
Routt County's pits cover 778 acres compared with a high of 4,678 acres in Larimer County and a low of 113 in Teller County.
Routt County allows a gravel operation to disturb no more than 40 acres at a time.
Q. Assuming we do need the gravel, can't the pit go somewhere else?
A. A map of Routt County indicating the location of significant gravel resources shows substantial aggregate west of Steamboat, where five pits already exist around Milner, and large pockets of aggregate in the south valley.
The majority of sand and gravel resources follow the Yampa River.
Q. Do we even need the gravel?
A. About 700 vacant parcels sit in the south valley area. That figure does not include vacant parcels in Steamboat Springs or Stagecoach.
Of south valley subdivisions, Storm Mountain Ranch, with eight of its 24 lots built, has the smallest percentage of vacant lots. Agate Creek, with one of its 21 lots built, has the largest percentage of vacant lots.
Beyond the south valley, substantial vacant parcels and the potential for infill development exist within the Steamboat Springs city limits south of Third Street.
Major widening and reconstruction is planned for Cololorado Highway 131 and Routt County Road 14.
Ongoing maintenance and repair of state, county, city and private roads and parking lots is expected.