Garfield County approves Cerise gravel pit
July 6, 2011
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A new gravel pit along Highway 82 was approved unanimously by the Garfield County commissioners on Tuesday, on property near Carbondale owned by the Cerise family next to County Road 103, the Crystal Springs Road.
This will be the third such gravel mining operation in the vicinity over the past three decades or so, and will be operated by Lafarge North America, a Denver-based subsidiary of the French corporation.
A nearby gravel mining operation, the Powers Pit, is located on the other side of Crystal Springs Road along the highway. That pit also has been run by Lafarge and is scheduled to be shuttered and undergo reclamation work over the next two years.
The county’s approval bars Lafarge from beginning its new operations until the Powers pit has been shut down.
Another adjacent operation, the Blue Pit operated by Western Slope Aggregates, recently won approval for expansion.
The applications for the Western Slope Aggregates expansion and for the Cerise pit were both strenuously opposed by neighbors living to the north.
Recommended Stories For You
The approval for the Cerise pit was unanimous, but came after a public hearing that started on June 13 and was continued to July 5 after neighbors raised a number of objections in more than four hours of testimony.
The meeting on Tuesday consumed nearly three hours, including about half an hour of debate among the commissioners about such matters as:
• Air quality, and whether neighbors were correct in claims that constant exposure to dust from the existing gravel pits already had compromised their health.
• Increases of heavy truck traffic, and the possibility that congestion at the intersection with Highway 82 could crate safety hazards.
• Whether the county can enforce an undefined requirement, contained in the county’s land use codes, that proposed industrial operations be separated by “sufficient distance” to avoid “cumulative impacts” that might compromise the quality of life of the neighborhood.
“I think there’s a lot here that’s on the backs of the Wooden Deer subdivision,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who in the end made the motion to approve the gravel pit with numerous conditions.
Among those testifying in opposition were Mark Kavasch and his wife, Susan Lau, who live in Wooden Deer. They told commissioners their health has been irretrievably damaged by the constant dust.
Lau said she suffers from “non-contagious tuberculosis.” Doctors attribute her illness, she said, to “the soil I’m breathing. It’s not staying in the gravel pits. It’s in the air.”
With two gravel pits just below their home instead of one, and with the prevailing winds from the west, Lau said, “We’d have double the impact.”
She noted that 20 years ago, she had only to deal with “one ranch with a tiny gravel pit” on the Blue property. Dust from the Powers pit to the west was blocked by land forms.
“If I have to breath twice the dust, I may die,” Lau said.
Some of those at the Tuesday hearing, mostly Lafarge employees, or friends and members of the Cerise family, supported the Lafarge proposal as a creator of jobs and economic stimulus.
“We’re very, very fortunate to have this resource accessible to us,” said area native Chris Steuben.
He maintained that Lafarge is a good industrial citizen, and declared, “Some of the gravel pits are going to turn out nicer than the subdivisions are, 50 years from now.”
The commissioners pressed Sean Frisch, representing Lafarge, about plans for dust suppression, revegetation, and other mitigating factors to alleviate the neighbors’ concerns.
Commissioners also called on the county’s environmental health manager, Jim Rada, to design an “ambient air monitoring study” for the lower Roaring Fork Valley and the area around Carbondale and the gravel pits under discussion.
Jankovsky said that, since Western Slope Aggregates was not required to do an air-quality study, it would not be fair to require Lafarge to do one.
“I think we could do a better job if we did that ourselves,” he told his fellow commissioners.
Commissioners concluded that Lafarge had proposed enough measures to deal with dust, noise and traffic issues, as well as the mitigation requirements of the county’s conditions of approval, that the project should be approved.