Snowstorm permit denied

This concrete batch plant is the kind of structure, along with an asphalt plant, that was proposed for the Snowstorm site south of Alma. (Courtesy Photo)

After approximately five hours of testimony on Sept. 13, Park County's Board of County Commissioners denied a conditional use permit application by Everist Materials to operate concrete and asphalt plants at the Snowstorm Gravel and Sand mine. The mine is located approximately 2 miles south of Alma on the east side of State Highway 9.

Eight hours of testimony had also been heard on Aug. 16.

Currently, Everist is leasing and operating the gravel mine with an option to buy.

Everist owner Tom Everist outlined the company's history in Summit County, compliance with permits there and the company's care about the environment and reclamation.

The Snowstorm mine has been in operation off and on for over 100 years. Approximately 135 acres have been mined, and no reclamation has occurred on the 260-acre property. Most of the mining occurred before reclamation became law.

Everist said the company would reclaim the entire property even though it wasn't required.

Consultant Paul Banks of Banks and Gesso LLC presented 31 conditions that the company would agree to implement if the conditional use was approved. Those included shortening the hours of operation and adding a left-hand outbound turning lane onto State Highway 9. He said the company would donate the historic Snowstorm dredge to the Park County Historical Society, but the society would need to find a way to move the dredge to an appropriate location.

Commissioner Doc McKay said some conditions the county desired were not on the list, such as screening the concrete and asphalt plants from view and shielding the generators to reduce noise.

Banks testified that only four of the 24 cubic feet per second of the mine's water rights would be needed for operations. He did not outline how the water would be used nor how much of that would be a consumptive use that would require augmentation.

Banks said the Middle Fork of the South Platte would not be dried up because the Colorado Water Conservation Board held an instream flow water right. Later he said the board's instream flow right was junior to the mine's water rights.

Everist said the company would decide at a later date what to do with the water it did not need.

McKay was concerned that since the asphalt plant would not operate year-round, asphalt truck traffic during the summer would be more than the average 20 trips per day in the Colorado Department of Transportation permit.

CDOT bases permits on average daily trips over a 365-day period. Everist Materials' permit allows an average of 20 trips per day for asphalt, 30 for cement and 50 for gravel. The permit does not require any improvements to Colorado Highway 9.

Commissioner John Tighe was concerned about safety with the number of trucks entering and leaving the mine without turning lanes. Highway 9 has a speed limit of 65 miles per hour in the area.

Commissioner Leni Walker asked if all trucks would meet the new federal diesel regulations.

Everist responded that the regulations applied only to new trucks purchased and the company would not retrofit trucks it currently owned.

Land Use Attorney Aaron Johnson, representing Platte River Estates subdivision, said the fundamental concept of zoning was to separate incompatible uses. She said the applicant had not presented clear and convincing evidence that the adjacent residential zoning would not have adverse impacts from the proposed heavy industrial uses.

Johnson said actual traffic impacts were not on the table and that other locations were available and better suited for industrial development.

"The credibility of government is at stake here," Johnson said. By approving the application, she said the commissioners would show "no respect for the county's Strategic Master Plan, the Towns' (Alma and Fairplay) opinions, the Planning Commission's recommendation (to deny the application), and the wide-spread citizen opposition.

Commissioner Walker pointed out that there are no current asphalt facilities in the county, plants are allowed in a mining zone as a conditional use, conditional use permits require that impacts be mitigated and that mineral resources are very important to the economic health of the county.

Johnson responded that processing need not occur where materials are extracted and should be located in an industrial park that would not impact residences. Johnson said that if impacts couldn't be mitigated, the conditional use should be denied.

Susan Jones, Marie Chisholm and Steve Collins of the South Park Economic Development Council supported approval.

Jones said the county needed more commercial and industrial development to increase the tax base and to provide jobs. She said asphalt and concrete plants in other places had not stopped residential growth around the plants' location.

Jones did not support singling out an area for an industrial park. She said processing needed to be located next to resources and along major transportation routes.

"The major thrust of economic development in the county is tourism," responded Commissioner McKay. He asked how a heavy industrial use in a View 1 corridor fit into a scenario of a possible National Heritage Area designation.

Collins answered that the area was not pristine due to past mining and that industry would be an advantage to Park County.

Chisholm said that dust from gravel roads is more detrimental than impacts from the plants.

Commissioner Walker asked if they would still be supportive if their houses were 850 to 1,000 feet from the plants.

Chisholm said she would still support it. "We won't stop progress, and Park County needs to not miss the boat," she said.

Collins said that if people bought land next to a mine, they had no right to complain.

Jones said that people needed to do their homework before buying land. Since asphalt and concrete plants are conditional uses in mining zones, anyone should expect the possibility of the plants being permitted. "I don't expect Big Brother to take care of me for something I should have known," she added.

Alma Town Board member Earl McGrew said the town had turned down a similar proposal in their jurisdiction and had voted to oppose Everist's proposal.

A letter from the town of Alma stated opposition due to wildlife concerns, incompatibility with surrounding land uses and possible decreased property values, safety issues from increased truck traffic without turning lanes on Highway 9 and resulting road damage, impacts from noise, dust and potential air and water pollution.

Commissioner Tighe asked if total reclamation of the Snowstorm mine didn't balance some of the impacts.

McGrew disagreed because of the long timeframe to reclaim. From experience, he knew that reclamation didn't always take place or wasn't completed on schedule.

Market researcher Jim Lofink represented the Glacier Ridge Homeowners Association and owns land in Valley of the Sun subdivision. He had calculated the demand for concrete at 13,350 tons per year by using the number of building permits that had been approved west of Kenosha since 2005.

Two operating concrete plants near Fairplay are permitted for 63,800 tons per year, he said. With the addition of another 30,000 tons per year of concrete by Everist's proposal, Lofink calculated the potential supply as being seven times the demand if the permit was approved.

Lofink submitted a 17-page document outlining local resident concerns, conflicts with Park County's Strategic Master Plan and Land Use Regulations and suggested conditions if the permit was approved.

Everist Materials had testified that the lifespan of the mine was approximately 40 years and approximately 20 million tons of aggregate existed at the mine.

Lofink said using those figures, that 500,000 tons would be mined per year, not 150,000 tons as stated by Everist Materials. He said, either mining would take place for three times longer than the projected forty years or that truck traffic would be three times more than the projected 100 average daily trips.

Ralph Herzog, a real estate appraiser, said houses next to the mine were not selling. He thought buyers were waiting to learn if the permit was granted. Property values may not go down if the permit was granted, he said, but he predicted they would not increase. He cited the Hayden airport near Steamboat Springs as an example of an area where property values had not increased as property values had in other areas of that county.

Herzog said that appropriate recent commercial development in Fairplay such as the grocery store, bowling alley and health clinic added benefits for residents. The county's biggest attraction was its natural resources, he said, and industrial uses needed buffer zones from other uses.

Dean Craft owns 270 acres across Highway 9 from the Snowstorm property and owns a concrete business in Denver. Craft said he knows Everist Materials and respects the company, but the plants are proposed in the wrong place.

Other residents, including those in the building and real estate trades, said they were not opposed to asphalt and concrete plants in the county, but that this was not an appropriate location.

Two residents not on the economic development council supported approval: Paula Sellers, who is employed by Everist, and Frank Just, who has a working relationship with Everist.

Commissioner Walker said that she saw a conflict between the mining zone regulations that allowed asphalt and concrete plants as a conditional use and the standards for approval that required compatibility with surrounding land uses. She added that whether or not it had been poor planning to rezone mining land in the area to residential, it was now residential.

County Attorney Lee Phillips said he saw no conflict in the Land Use Regulations because an allowed conditional use must still meet all permit approval standards.

The commissioners found that Standard 6, compatibility with surrounding land uses, had not been met and denied the permit application.

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