Steamboat Springs Routt County officials came out of a closed session with county attorney John Merrill on Tuesday saying they will monitor future activity, or the lack of activity, at the Bear River Sand and Gravel Co. west of Steamboat Springs but don’t plan to dig into past operations to determine the status of the gravel mine.
Bear River, owned by Ron and Lester Crawford, of South Routt, dates to 1978 and has enjoyed grandfathered status as a gravel pit and concrete batch plant that predates county regulations requiring that such operations obtain special-use permits from the county. Lafarge Aggregates and Concrete, a one-time lessee at Bear River, asked the county to look into the gravel mine’s eligibility for continued operation.
Lafarge contends that the owners have failed to meet the standard of showing annual operations at the mine to maintain their grandfathered status. Lafarge bases its contention on its claim that the mine was inactive during a 13-month period when Lafarge, as lessee, suspended concrete production.
Relations between the county and Lafarge have been tense at times.
In a memo to the Routt County Board of Commissioners, County Planning Director Chad Phillips wrote that Lafarge confirmed having a lease to operate a concrete plant on the site for a period of years but stopped production in May 2008 and continued to lease it during suspended operations until July 2009.
“Lafarge contends that there was no use of the plant during this 13-month period and therefore, the concrete plant should have lost its nonconforming status,” Phillips wrote.
“Over … 12 months the demand for concrete slumped and Lafarge no longer needed the option of a second operational site,” Sean Frisch, a land manager with the company, wrote in a letter to Phillips.
Lafarge won approval for a different gravel mining operation in 2005, but it found the conditions placed on the approval so onerous that it took the county to court over some of them. The county prevailed, and Lafarge withdrew.
Phillips told the commissioners that during a meeting with the Crawfords in November 2009, they showed receipts for gravel and concrete sales dated from August 2008 to June 2009 but declined to provide copies of the receipts for the county file.
County Manager Tom Sullivan said the commissioners and Phillips met with Merrill to discuss the matter and decided they could not reliably determine what activity had or had not taken place at Bear River Sand and Gravel on a retroactive basis but would monitor operations going forward.