Gyp­sum re­jects plan for gravel pit

Shortly af­ter over 30 res­i­dents voice con­cerns, the town coun­cil unan­i­mously nixes the pro­posal.

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Ja­son Blevins

Af­ter a steady stream of Ea­gle County res­i­dents blasted a plan to de­velop a gravel pit on a mesa above the Colorado River near Dot­sero, the Gyp­sum Town Coun­cil took barely two min­utes Tues­day night to unan­i­mously re­ject the pro­ject.

In a four-hour emo­tional meet­ing late Tues­day, a tide of op­po­si­tion to the gravel pit pro­posal by Elam Con­struc­tion flooded coun­cil cham­bers.

Home­own­ers along Colorado River Road, which me­an­ders along the banks of the Colorado River north of In­ter­state 70, lamented the noise, dust and truck traf­fic that would ac­com­pany the pro­posed gravel pit. Res­i­dents of the Two Rivers Vil­lage, a tight-knit com­mu­nity of en­try-level homes, wor­ried their home val­ues would crater with a pit as a neigh­bor. They wor­ried about im­pacts to wa­ter qual­ity and wildlife with a gravel mine and as­phalt plant be­tween open space along the river be­low and BLM land above. They urged coun­cil mem­bers to con­sider the recre­ational char­ac­ter of the area, which is a por­tal to both the up­per Colorado River and the pop­u­lar Flat Tops Wilder­ness Area.

“Of the peo­ple I’ve spo­ken to, no one is for this ex­cept the peo­ple who will make money from it,” said Josh Farmer, who owns a stor­age yard near the pro­posed gravel pit. “Please don’t plague the Dot­sero area with this for decades to come.”

Elam Con­struc­tion and landowner Karl Berger were ask­ing Gyp­sum to an­nex the land and is­sue a spe­cial use per­mit that would al­low for a 10-year gravel mine and as­phalt plant on about 150 acres above the river. The pro­ject stirred pas­sion­ate op­po­si­tion. For sev­eral years, Ea­gle County con­ser­va­tion ef­forts have pre­served more than 1,300 acres of river­front ranch land above Dot­sero as open space, pro­tect­ing it from de­vel­op­ment. Berger a month ago had fi­nal­ized a $190,000 con­ser­va­tion ease­ment on acreage he owned be­low the pro­posed mine site.

Berger wanted to let Elam mine gravel — 230,000 tons a year from three pits for a decade — and then the con­struc­tion com­pany would re­ha­bil­i­tate the prop­erty from sage­brush to pas­ture. The com­pany said the sup­ply of gravel could lower the price of ag­gre­gate build­ing ma­te­ri­als for the Ea­gle Val­ley.

“A com­pet­i­tive mar­ket could reduce prices,” said Gyp­sum res­i­dent Paul St. Ruth. “But is the prom­ise of ‘could’ se­ri­ously be enough to out­weigh all the neg­a­tives?”

Ap­plause fol­lowed the more than 30 res­i­dents who spoke against the gravel pro­ject. When Gyp­sum’s Ken Ho­eve asked op­po­nents of the plan to stand up, pretty much ev­ery per­son in the crowded cham­bers stood. The coun­cil did not de­bate or dis­cuss the plan be­fore deny­ing the an­nex­a­tion and per­mit re­quest.

There were a few sup­port­ers. Tom Peter­son, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Colorado As­phalt Pave­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, of­fered stud­ies show­ing the state’s 65 as­phalt plants in 42 coun­ties were not en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards. Since 1970, Peter­son said, as­phalt plants across the coun­try have re­duced emis­sions by 97 per­cent while in­creas­ing pro­duc­tion by 250 per­cent.

Ste­wart Hobbs, a sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Ea­gle County res­i­dent whose fa­ther started an ex­ca­va­tion com­pany in the Ea­gle Val­ley, said pro­jects such as the gravel pit are im­por­tant to the val­ley’s eco­nomic health.

“You can’t close the door be­hind you, and that’s what I’m hear­ing here tonight,” he said, not­ing how the com­mu­nity’s crit­i­cal push for af­ford­able hous­ing can be helped with a lo­cal sup­ply of build­ing ma­te­ri­als. “I think this can be truly a ben­e­fit to our com­mu­nity in so many as­pects. I don’t think ev­ery­one knows how much of an im­pact ag­gre­gate has on pro­jects.”

Many of the res­i­dents urged the coun­cil to let the ex­ist­ing gravel op­er­a­tions — in­clud­ing one in Ea­gle and the larger Hid­den Val­ley pit along Deep Creek above the Colorado River not far from Dot­sero — sup­ply the county with­out de­vel­op­ing a new pit.

Jeremy Ri­et­mann, the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor for Gyp­sum, agreed that the pit would have im­pacts on the roughly 1,000 res­i­dents in the Gyp­sum area. But a de­ci­sion re­ject­ing the mine would have im­pacts as well, he said.

“Raw ma­te­ri­als for ev­ery­thing come from some­where,” Ri­et­mann said, hold­ing up his cell­phone to list the dozens of me­tals needed to con­struct the mod­ern­day de­vice. “This pro­posal may or may not be right for Gyp­sum. We are all friends and neigh­bors in a small com­mu­nity, and what­ever is de­cided tonight, we should re­main that way.”

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