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Blue gravel pit expansion plan pulled

Oct, 18 2011


(Colorado)  --  A request to extend approvals for one year for the Western Slope Aggregates gravel pit near Carbondale, on land owned by Dolores “Dee” Blue and her family, has been withdrawn, according to county officials.

Glenwood Springs attorney Tim Thulson withdrew the request Monday just as it was about to be granted final approval by the signature of Garfield County Commissioner John Martin.

In other matters Monday, the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) agreed to continue talking to the U.S. Forest Service about a dispute over ownership of 15 roads, and to help the construction industry get back to work by lifting affordable housing requirements.

The operators and land owners seeking the extension for the Blue Pit, as it is known, had won county approvals to expand the pit earlier in the year. But the applicants were not happy with the conditions placed on the project by the commissioners, which essentially cut in half the size of the expansion area.

A companion application, seeking a revision of the county's land use codes enabling the BOCC to reconsider the conditions of approval, also has been withdrawn, according to assistant county attorney Carolyn Dahlgren.

Thulson could not be reached for comment about the matter later Monday.

The existing 83-acre pit has been in operation since 1981, and the expansion plan was to add 64 acres to the gravel mining permit.

The expansion project generated controversy even before it was proposed in 2010. Nearby residents complained that the expansion would mean decades of continued dust, noise and visual pollution, on top of 30 years of disturbance they already had endured.

An adjacent ranch owned by the Cerise family also was proposing a gravel pit to be run by the Lafarge international firm, and neighbors argued that the cumulative effects of the two pits would be unacceptable.

The county approved the Blue Pit expansion, but for only the southern half of the area proposed for expansion.

County Commissioner Mike Samson said on Monday that he believed Western Slope Aggregates would continue to mine under its existing permit, which is estimated to be good for another 10 years of mining, although it is possible that another expansion proposal will be submitted in the future.

In other action, the BOCC:

• Agreed to continue negotiations with the U.S. Forest Service over a jurisdictional dispute about roads.

County attorney Drew Gorgey reported progress in negotiations so far, explaining that the two sides have reached agreement about several roads on a list of 15 that the county is concerned about.

“They don't seem to be fighting about anything,” Gorgey told the commissioners.

“If we can resolve that without going to court, that's a plus,” said Commissioner John Martin.

But the county wants all 15 roads on the list declared county roads now and forever, he said.

Referring specifically to County Road 241, the East Elk Creek Road, he said, “Ownership needs to go to the county.”

The commissioners instructed Gorgey to continue the negotiations, but to be prepared to file quiet title actions in district court on any roads that remain in dispute.

• Referred a proposed building incentive program to the Garfield County Planning and Zoning Commission.

The proposal is intended as a way to encourage local developers to start building again despite the ongoing recession. It would excuse developers, under certain conditions, from complying with aspects of the county's inclusionary housing requirements for providing affordable housing in every project.

The matter is expected to be considered by the P&Z on Nov. 23.
By: John Colson
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