Steamboat Springs Twenty-two seconds.
That is how long a proposed gravel pit in the south valley would be visible to motorists on Rabbit Ears Pass, a Lafarge representative told the Steamboat Springs City Council Tuesday.
Lafarge presented its plan for 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.
Lafarge proposes an open-cut mining operation for sand and gravel. The site will hold five gravel pits, a permanent concrete plant, a seasonal crushing and screening plant, washing plant and an asphalt batch plant will be brought on to the site during the construction months.
Lafarge proposes to operate the pit for 12 to 15 years and, after the gravel is mined, leave five lakes totaling 66 acres on the land.
Almost a dozen residents came to Tuesday's meeting, which was the first time public officials had seen the revised plans since a conceptual hearing in the fall of 2001.
Lafarge is asking Routt County for a special use permit; city council is being asked to pass along its recommendation.
Lafarge has made two major changes since its conceptual plan: moving its main operations from the west end of the site to the north end and preserving a strip of wetlands that runs across the property.
Gary Tuttle, director of land and resources for Lafarge, said minimizing views of the gravel pit was a top priority in redesigning the site. The company moved the location of its permanent concrete plant, seasonal plants, storage area and shops so that they'd be "tucked in" to a hillside on the north end of the property.
Tuttle acknowledged that U.S. Highway 40 coming off Rabbit Ears Pass was one of the gateways into the Yampa Valley, but said the proposed plant could only be viewed for about 1,500 feet, which would be about 22 seconds of driving time.
"We feel the new site plan, the way we pull (the operations) up against the hill, only gives you a partial view of our site," Tuttle said.
Tuttle showed the council photo simulations of what the views would be at two spots on U.S. 40 and three spots along Highway 131.
Resident Ken Solomon, who opposes the proposal, pointed to the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan, where he said the land is designated as an open space area.
Lafarge has two other plants operating in the south valley, one across the highway from the proposed site and another two miles away. The proposed gravel pit is planned to replace the current two once they are depleted.
Tuttle said that 20 percent of the current pits' supplies go south and 80 percent goes north on Highway 131. Of that 80 percent, he said about 50 percent goes to the Mount Werner area. Only about 25 percent of the business goes into town, Tuttle said, and 5 or 8 percent actually travels west of Steamboat.
If Lafarge had to move its operations from the south valley, Tuttle said council could expect 30 to 35 additional truck trips per hour on Lincoln Avenue during peak construction season.
Because the council had a noon meeting following the 45-minute presentation, public comment was limited. But, the council will take public comment during Tuesday's council meeting when it plans to make its recommendation.
The County Planning Commission will decide on the special use permit on April 3 and the County Commissioners are scheduled to make the final decision on April 22.