Connell Resources proposes Routt County rarity: a gravel pit that fails to ignite controversy
August 27, 2013
Steamboat Springs — As gravel pits and asphalt plants fare in Routt County, a proposal this month by Connell Resources to shift its gravel mining operations east of Hayden onto 40 new acres is about as uncontroversial as it gets.
Company executive Tony Connell explained to the Routt County Board of Commissioners during a preapplication hearing Tuesday that they actually aren't proposing to expand their gravel mine but are seeking to move off 34 acres owned by the Camilletti family where operations are winding down and onto adjacent land that Connell Resources already owns. Coincidentally, the new mine would be adjacent to Routt County's own gravel pit.
"This location is really Connell Resources’ keystone for Routt County," Connell told the commissioners. "Our No. 1 product is asphalt, and we've had a very good history on our production at this location. This operation and this pit have been going since the early 1990s, and we've found no complaints in all those years."
A gravel pit in Routt County that doesn't generate complaints is a rarity. The fur usually flies at public hearings where new pits are proposed or changes to operations are anticipated.
What makes the Connell pit different is the fact that it sits above U.S. Highway 40 and north of the west half of the runway at Yampa Valley Regional Airport where very few people, save for airplane pilots on final approach, even glimpse it. It's at the top of a steep hill above the highway and shielded by a ridge.
The current pit is accessed by Routt County Road 51A, but nobody lives next door, and even motorists approaching the airport terminal on nearby C.R. 51 don't see the gravel pit or the asphalt batch plant.
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The handful of neighbors in the area don't seem to object.
"I like to joke that West Routters know how to handle gravel," Commissioner Doug Monger said. "We like to have a source of gravel available."
The proposal was before the Routt County Planning Commission earlier this month, and the primary discussion point there was Connell's request to gradually get away from using C.R. 51A to access U.S. 40 with its gravel trucks and merge its traffic with that traveling a more informal access road already in use by the county at its pit.
The increased traffic represented by Connell's operation would require building a deceleration lane for trucks intending to turn left off the highway. Connell told the commissioners it would greatly increase the cost of operation for his company to continue to use the county road for access because even after it completes reclamation of the Camilletti property, it still would require an easement to cross that land from the new operation to reach the highway.
"Once we get done with reclaiming Camilletti, we really need to go to the new access with the county," Connell said. "For us, it's a strong desire to use an access that's entirely on our property."
The reaction from the commissioners was tentatively positive.
"The new direct access makes sense to me," Commissioner Steve Ivancie said. "It can be a safer access point. Anything we can do to lessen traffic on 51A, I think, is a good thing. And I'm all in favor of seeing existing sites developed to their maximum."
No vote was taken at Tuesday's meeting, and Connell still must come back through the public hearing process with a formal proposal before it's allowed to move its operations to the new mine site.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com