Gravel decision postponed

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— After a three-hour public hearing, the Routt County Board of Commissioners postponed their decision on the Lafarge Gravel Pit until Friday.

At about 9:40 p.m. Monday, the commissioners called off the meeting, saying they needed another 30 to 45 minutes to make their comments and deliberate on the proposal.

The news was delivered to a packed house at Centennial Hall, where residents on both sides of the debate had made public comments and had been waiting since 6:30 p.m. to hear the outcome. Lafarge representative Gary Tuttle also gave his rebuttal to some comments that were made before the county commissioners ended the meeting.

The commissioners postponed the meeting to 6:30 p.m. Friday at Centennial Hall. The meeting will be dedicated strictly to making a decision. The commissioners made no comments Monday to indicate how they will vote Friday.

"We've received a lot more input and comments and documents none of us have received before this evening," said Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak, who participated in the meeting via telephone.

Those for and against the gravel pit were disappointed by the delay of the decision, but they recognized the need for more time.

"We had hoped for a decision tonight, but we understand there were a lot of comments and people need to discuss all aspects," Tuttle said. "We look forward to Friday."

"New things came up that they need to seriously take into consideration," said Sam Marti, a member of Concerned Citizens, an organized group opposing the gravel pit.

Much of the public comment and discussion Monday night was focused on the issues that commissioners had requested more information about when Lafarge proposed the pit in 2003.

Lafarge has proposed a gravel pit on the 128-acre More Family Ranch, east of Colorado Highway 131. The site would have five smaller gravel pits, a permanent concrete plant, a seasonal crushing and screening plant and a washing plant. The company would mine 460,000 tons of gravel a year from the pit, with an estimated life of 13 to 15 years.

The five gravel pits would allow the company to mine in small sections and, when the mining is finished in one area, the company would start the reclamation process for that area.

The majority of the meeting was dedicated to public comment, with those for and against the pit clapping every time a similarly minded speaker finished. Some even interjected boos.

Residents raised concerns about the effects to wetlands, Lafarge's fog mitigation plan, the air pollution coming from the proposed concrete plant and the company's track record in reclaiming two other gravel pits in the area.

The overriding theme expressed by opponents of the pit was the permanent scar it would leave on the South Valley, which would irreparably damage the view from Rabbit Ears Pass and the entrance to Steamboat Springs, they said.

The gravel pit is a bad first impression, Alicia Josfan said.

"I do understand the issue of the economy. We are fooling ourselves if we don't see tourism as a valuable economic driver and a first impression of a gravel pit doesn't really cut it," Josfan said.

Those in favor of the gravel pit pointed out the need for it in the South Valley and that the same concerns would exist if a gravel pit were relocated. Commercial truck driver Chris Allen said traffic through town inevitably would increase if a pit doesn't go in east of Steamboat Springs.

"If we are going to keep town as it is, keep growing, we need enough economy to maintain it," Allen said. "One of the things I have observed, the two other gravel pits have been here and haven't diminished my quality of life by one bit."

One resident, Bill Wallace, said that Lafarge should provide more public good for the proposed gravel pit. Wallace said he used to work with Lafarge, an international mining company based in France. He said Third World countries expected the company to provide more public good than Routt County.

"You really have to ask the question, 'What would a world class leader in sustainability, what would they expect them to do?' They would expect them to work with the community, by and large design the best facility and contribute something to the community in exchange for mining a nonrenewable (resource) that is an industrial eyesore," Wallace said.

County Commissioner Doug Monger asked Lafarge representatives what public good they were providing.

"We believe public benefit to our operation is supplying a needed construction material close to the end use with minimal impacts and reducing truck hauling," Tuttle said.


-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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