Grand County commissioners deny permit for gravel pit to supply asphalt
April 23, 2009
A gravel-pit owner who sought to temporarily increase operations to satisfy a federal road job in Rocky Mountain National Park was denied permission on Tuesday in a split county commissioner vote.
As many as 40 concerned property owners piled into the commissioner board room mostly to voice opposition to a gravel-pit request from Bob Willits of Willits Company Inc., a company that located to CR60 outside of Granby about five years ago for the purpose of providing material for roads in a nearby development.
After hearing testimony for and against the permit change, Commissioner James Newberry moved to deny Willits’ request. Commissioner Nancy Stuart was in favor of the amendment, saying she felt Willits’ business is unfairly tethered to restriction compared to other pits, adding that Willits’ business should have the right to use the public’s county roads for more hauls.
Commissioner Gary Bumgarner, a gravel pit owner in the Kremmling area who cleared a possible conflict of interest by voicing that neither he nor his pit were involved with bidding for the Park project, sided with Newberry.
Asked to comment after the decision, Willits left the building with a “no comment.”
The pit has been operating under a special use permit, the last renewal of which took place in December 2008. The permit limits related traffic to 50 trucks per day during specific hours. In December, commissioners warned Willits not to exceed the allowable number of truck hauls upon supplied records indicating that it had violated the permit 15 times in the past two years. Willits requested an increase in allowed hauls at that time, but was informed an increase would necessitate an official amendment to his county permit.
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Fast forward to last Tuesday: Willits sat before board members with a request to increase the number of loads allowed per day to and from his pit.
The reason stated was to supply gravel that would be mixed at the site to produce asphalt for a 10.75-mile stretch of Trail Ridge Road through the Park. Increased traffic to and from the pits would have taken place only during the months of June, July, August and part of September of this year.
Mostly due to truck traffic through neighborhoods just outside of Granby for access to Highway 34, most of the crowd was opposed to Willits’ proposal.
Property owners, many from Legacy Park Ranch and Ouray Ranch subdivisions, complained that added truck traffic would be unsafe and inappropriate through those communities. A steep grade in Ouray Ranch, for one, makes truck traffic a hazard on a road that already has speeders, they said.
The county planning department had recommended approval of the added use, saying allowing Willits to accommodate the job would help the local economy. Truck traffic on those roads should be allowed due to the fact they are public roads, the county planner noted.
The few in favor of the Willits’ request echoed that point, saying the Legacy Ranch community a few years ago lobbied to have its roads dedicated to the county, but now wants to restrict their public use.
“If they didn’t want roads on the county system, then why did they beg to get them on there?” asked longtime CR60 resident Skip McClelland.
Because some traffic could have been routed via County Road 60, a road along which senior housing and large-acerage ranching homes are located, other CR 60 residents were also opposed. Willits himself agreed that a paved walking-bicycle trail was needed for that stretch of road to accommodate seniors and youth.
Ken Coulson of Coulson Excavating, Loveland, the “lucky low bidder” awarded the $6.8 million Federal Highway Administration/Department of Transportation Park contract to resurface a portion of Trail Ridge Road, seemed surprised at the public outcry.
“We didn’t mean to get everybody in the community all upset,” he said, saying he understood from Willits that the pit owner had a chance to acquire a permit change for the project.
“We talked to Mr. Willits, and he thought he had a chance to get a permit for the asphalt plant,” he said. “But it sounds to me like there are a lot of people in the area that don’t think that ought to happen.”
Other gravel pits in the area, he explained, either had a pending legal issue at the time of the bid or had other permit hurdles. It came out in the meeting that many of those issues had already been resolved.
Apparently addressing competing gravel-pit owners in the room, he said, “This is not the only job that will be taking place in Rocky Mountain National Park.”
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