Granby holds hearing on gravel pit
A contentious debate with potentially sweeping repercussions is being played out in Granby town government.
During last week’s Board of Trustees meeting the Granby Board held a public hearing regarding E.H. International LLC’s conditional use permit for hours of operation for the Reclamation Ridge Gravel Pit (RRGP). The hearing pertained specifically to accusations from community members who live near the RRGP who claim the pit has operated outside the permitted hours.
No formal action was taken during the meeting last week and the issue was postponed until the next Board of Trustees meeting, Tuesday August 9. When the Board reconvenes next week to continue consideration of the conditional use permit, and any potential violations, they will also consider taking actions.
If the Board determines E.H. International violated their conditional use permit governing operation of the RRGP the Town Board could suspend the permit, put additional stipulations on the permit or even cancel the permit entirely.
The current conditional use permit between the Town of Granby and E.H. International LLC was worked out in 2010. The permit restricts operational hours of the RRGP to Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Under the permit the RRGP is not to be operated before 7 a.m., after 7 p.m. or on Sundays at any time.
Granby Town Attorney Scotty Krob pointed out the statutes that govern the conditional use permit require a public hearing if the conditions of the permit are breached. Krob also informed Ken Evans, owner/operator of the RRGP, that under statutes governing the hearing the burden is on the permit holder to prove they did not violate the terms of the permit.
Evans addressed the Board first during the hearing, responding to a complaint the Town received claiming the RRGP was operated outside permitted hours. Evans told the Board he believed the permit for the RRGP contained provisions allowing for maintenance work outside standard operational hours.
Evans informed the Board he believed the compliant stemmed from a specific incident earlier this summer in June when engineers from Finland were brought in by the company to conduct maintenance work on two pieces of large equipment that had been struck by lightening. Machinery which, according to Evans, cost roughly three-quarters of a million dollars each.
When that incident occurred in June one of the property owners living near the pit called local authorities to report the violation of operational hours. An officer from the Granby Police Department (GPD) responded to the RRGP and spoke with Evans.
Trustee Robin Trainor asked Evans directly if he operates the RRGP outside permitted hours. Evans emphatically said “no”. “We were doing maintenance outside of the regular hours one time,” Evans said. “We brought in techs from the manufacturer.” Evans went on to say he has operated the RRGP for eight years and, “I think we have been good neighbors.”
That contention was highly contested by several community members who addressed the Board during the hearing. Likewise those residents who live near the RRGP claim the pit operates outside permitted hours on a regular basis.
William Hanson addressed the Board after Evans. Hanson lives northeast of the RRGP and was the individual who lodged the formal complaint with the Town, prompting the public hearing, and was also the person who called local authorities to report the violation of operational hours on June 17, which prompted the response from the GPD. Hanson had a timeline of notes from the June 17 incident that he read to the Board. Hanson claimed the RRGP is regularly operated outside permitted hours. Hanson requested the Board put a stay on the permit for the RRGP.
Bill Spurlin also addressed the Board to lodge his complaints. Trustee Jane Harmon asked Spurlin if the RRGP has operated outside permitted hours after the June 17 incident that prompted the police call. Spurlin informed her he has not heard operations outside permitted hours since the incident but pointed out he had heard operations outside permitted hours before the incident.
Dean Morrow also addressed the Board. “I believe I am the only one that can visually see the gravel pit from my house,” Morrow said. “I can attain to the fact they are in full operation, it depends on the time of year and what equipment he has. This isn’t the first time I have seen it.” Morrow told the Board he has not seen the RRGP operate outside permitted hours since the issue was brought up formally.
Dick Prather also spoke. Prather asserted the RRGP regularly operates outside the permitted 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. time period saying, “It wasn’t just one night.”
The Board asked GPD Chief Bill Housley to read the police report pertaining to the incident on June 17. Housley apologized to the Board because the officer who fielded the call on June 17 did not write up a formal report. Housley also informed the Board the officer who responded to the call was on vacation last week and was unavailable to answer questions from the Board.
“I am disappointed we don’t have a written report,” Housley said. “I was able to get dispatch notes, which confirmed the incident occurred.” Chief Housley reviewed the dispatch notes for the Board, pointing out the notes are not a formal document while also pointing out the dispatch notes coincide closely with the comments made by Hanson regarding the timeline of the June 17 incident.
After formal complaints were made Evans was given another chance to address the Board. Among his comments Evans said, “This was an isolated incident. It is very disingenuous to say we do it all the time. If we did it all the time don’t you think you would hear about it? In the last eight years this was the first complaint.”
Evans suggested the Board wait until GPD’s Officer Miller, who responded to the call on June 17, returns to question him regarding the incident that night. “I think his story and my story would match up,” Evans said.
FROM THE BOARD
Trustee Greg Mordini asked if the complaint received by the Town that prompted the Public Hearing was the first formal complaint received by the Town regarding violations of operational hours at the RRGP. “As far as I am aware, yes.” Said Granby Town Clerk Deb Hess. “I can’t speak to what (former Town Manager) Wally (Baird) might have received but I have not received another formal compliant.”
After the Public Hearing was closed the Board requested Evans bring work-invoices, regarding the Finnish engineers Evans claims were used on the night of June 17 to conduct maintenance, to the next Board meeting when the issue will be taken up again.
Several members of the Board were not shy in excoriating Evans regarding the complaints. Mayor Paul Chavoustie said, “I believe what I am hearing people saying.” Trustee Jane Harmon said, “I don’t believe all these home owners came here to tell us some outlandish story.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Deb Shaw expressed her desire to review the repair invoice documents and to speak with Officer Miller regarding the June 17 incident before taking further action. Trustee Trainor also gave Evans an ultimatum going forward. “If during the weeks that we continue to review this, if the pit is running at 7:01 I will recommend this board cancel your permit.”
Trustee Paul Robertson expressed sympathy for the complaints lodged by citizens, which he called “legitimate,” but cautioned against, “taking punitive action based on limited documentation of the offense.”
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