Gravel pit plans lead to lawsuit
November 13, 2006
A Woody Creek landowner is suing Pitkin County over the county’s approval of expansion of the Elam Gravel Pit, claiming the pit is too close to his home and the creek itself.But a county official said Monday evening he believes the county acted properly in approving the gravel pit expansion.William Braun, who bought the Vagneur ranching spread in Woody Creek in 1988, last year sold off most of the ranch, more than 900 acres, for $23 million, according to reports. Braun kept a homesite on the valley floor opposite the Little Woody Creek intersection, which is on the banks of Woody Creek opposite Elam’s operation.In a lawsuit filed Monday, Braun claims the gravel pit’s active operation site extends to within 200 feet of the creek, and that a planned expansion will stretch the site to within 100 feet of the creek. The suit maintains this is a violation of county codes that require the pit to be at least 200 feet away from any “stream, river, lake or water impoundment.”In addition, Braun claims his home is “within 400 feet of the expansion” approved by the county. Braun maintains this is a violation of the code requiring the pit site be at least 1,000 feet away from any occupied dwelling. The suit claims “there are many occupied dwellings within 1,000 feet of the pit site” in addition to Braun’s.Aside from the proximity issue, Braun’s suit claims the gravel pit operation “deposits copious quantities of dust” on the Braun home, which is a “nuisance” that is “prohibited” by the county’s land use codes, according to the lawsuit.The suit also alleges the county “failed to require” Elam to submit a reclamation and revegetation plan, as required by the codes.Braun further accuses the county of basically ignoring its own code requirements in favor of “the BOCC’s [Board of County Commissioners’] own economic interests in procuring least-cost fill and construction materials for its own infrastructure projects.”These “arbitrary and capricious” actions, the suit argues, are proof that the BOCC “exceeded its jurisdiction,” acted in “abuse of their discretion” and thus violated Braun’s constitutional “right to due process.”Braun asks that a judge void the approvals for the gravel pit expansion and award Braun “reasonable costs, and order such other relief as this Court deems just and proper.”Mick Ireland, chair of the BOCC, said in an e-mailed response Monday evening, “I can understand that no one wants a gravel pit next door but I believe the county acted within the land use code and state law in granting the approval.”John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.