Council: No to gravel pit

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City Council decided Tues-day that it was not comfortable having a gravel pit inside the city limits.

On Tuesday night, Ed MacArthur presented plans for Yampa Meadows, an 88-acre site that, in seven years, would have provided 76 acres of open space, including a 24-acre city park. The land, which MacArthur was asking be annexed into the city, also would support a gravel-mining operation for seven years. At the end of the gravel pit operation, 12 acres would be turned into eight single-family home lots.

According to MacArthur's proposal, gravel would be mined from the land two months a year, in the late fall, stored in large piles and sold throughout the year. MacArthur presented his plans Tuesday in a preapplication hearing, which requires no vote and simply asks council members to give their feedback.

Five of the seven council members said that the land, which sits just south of the city limits and off U.S. Highway 40, was not suitable for a gravel pit. In addition, the council members strongly encouraged MacArthur to move two large gravel piles that have been sitting on the land for years, which many people consider unsightly.

The council members against any kind of long-term gravel operation -- Kathy Connell, Ken Brenner, Susan Dellinger, Steve Ivancie and Paul Strong -- said MacArthur's proposal did not meet the direction set out in the Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan or the vision for the entrance into Steamboat Springs.

"Having a gravel pit in this location flies in the face of everything we have worked so hard on for our gateway," Connell said.

Brenner said the gravel pit would be in a one-mile radius of 1,100 homes.

Councilwoman Nancy Kram-er joined Councilman Loui Antonucci in not objecting completely to a gravel pit operation. Both said a seven-year operation could be too long but were not willing to rule one out entirely. Kramer stressed it would be a temporary gravel pit and that the proposed city park ultimately offered a greater benefit.

The site is already home to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club water ramp, where athletes train in the summer at the edge of a long, rectangular lake created by the mining of the two large gravel piles already sitting on the site. MacArthur's plan would have expanded to that lake.

Strong said he would consider allowing minimal gravel extraction in the area if it would make the ski jump lake look more natural.

"I don't know the economics of the project and what you need to do to make it work," Strong said. "I want to do what is best for the community. This proposal is not it."

Much of the public comment Tuesday night focused on past plans for the land and a dispute MacArthur had with the county. Routt County Planning Director Caryn Fox said that, in 1998, MacArthur dug the ski jump lake without any permits from the county, state or federal governments.

At that time, state law allowed property owners to dig land but not remove the material from that land without permission. After issuing a cease and desist order for digging the gravel, the county had to allow MacArthur to dig the land but did not allow him to move it off the property. The large gravel piles have remained there for years.

Fox suggested that the piles should be donated to the city because they were excavated without following county regulations.

"I don't believe a person should make a profit off of a project disregarding our laws," Fox said.

On Tuesday, MacArthur said he does not apologize for the incident. Others urged the council to end the standoff and make beneficial use of the property.

Some argued that having a gravel pit at the south side of town would prevent trucks from carrying gravel through the downtown during the summer.

John Holloway said Mac-Arthur's gravel pit would be a good alternative to the one Lafarge has proposed in the South Valley and farther out of town.

"There is a need for gravel, and I like to look at this as an opportunity to eliminate just a really bad situation," Holloway said. "He is trying to do the right thing here. It is time for all of us to step back and put away all our differences."

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