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Grand County approves gravel pit expansion over neighbors’ objections

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Tonya Bina/Sky-Hi Daily News
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It’s been a long ride for neighbors such as Sharon and Mike Spurlin of greater Granby, fighting an emotionally charged gravel pit expansion that will be a couple hundred feet from their son’s bedroom window.

It became official Tuesday, as Grand County commissioners granted the special use permit to the gravel pit’s lease operator Ted Pratt and its owners Gary and Larry Thompson.

It was the culmination of a multi-year effort to increase gravel production near East Grand school district property ” or to fight the expansion tooth and nail, depending on the perspective.

Most neighbors whose homes or property surround the gravel pit entered Tuesday’s meeting with an attitude of defeat.

Prior votes had left them no choice but to agree on a 5-foot, 11-inch fence proposed to lessen the constant hum of trucks and clouds of dust.

The near-20 acre tract, land formerly part of the historic lettuce belt, had already been through a county rezoning process in August of 2006.

Commissioners converted the residential land to forestry and open space.

At that time, neighbors clawed for preservation of residential zoning, as 14 other large-acerage properties surround the Thompson’s land. Only two parcels were zoned forestry and open, all others remained residential.

It was during this process, the Spurlins and other neighbors defended their neighborhood.

In the following December, it became more evident that the Thompson Gravel Pit operation was destined to expand. The pit, which in 12 years has grown from 8.2 acres to the current 69.6 acres, is considered a special use.

County permission was granted to amend the Thompsons’ permit to include their new land.

Shortly after, the Spurlins were so against the gravel pit they put the home they’d built in 1985 on the market.

“It was our retirement home,” Sharon said. “It was our way of life, we love it there. It’s where we raised our son.”

In November, the gravel pit permit was renewed.

Of commissioners who’ve been at the table for each of the gravel pit’s steps, consistently, Commissioner Nancy Stuart has voted in the pit’s favor. Commissioner James Newberry has voted against it.

“I believe in property rights,” Newberry said yesterday, saying he has never believed that the industrial use of a mining operation would be a good fit for land adjacent to residential properties.

Before the expansion, the original pit was over the hill and out of sight.

On Tuesday, the ability to mine the Thompson’s land in two to five years as a special use was bestowed unanimously.

For the first time, Newberry voted in its favor.

Since the operation legally fit the existing zoning, he said, his focus shifted to “mitigating the impacts to its neighbors.”

Thus the fence, estimated to be 1,650 feet in length along the Thompson’s perimeter, which will be wood construction, staggered boards ” preferably cedar, the neighbors asked.

When it looked like a 210-foot buffer zone previously prescribed might be reduced, neighbors demanded definition on that too. They also asked for clarification concerning a logging business that exists on the Thompson property, owned by Dan Hahn, who sold the property to the Thompsons in 1999. Neighbors complained that the right to have such a business there is being abused, with an excess of parked trucks and traffic not belonging to Hahn himself. A home-based business in the county must qualify under a set of criteria, even if it has existed for 25 years.

Some neighbors, such as Scott Holley, felt the county hadn’t done its homework enough to make educated decisions on the Thompson property.

As far as the prospect of having a gravel pit out her home’s window some day, Sharon said she and her husband “are devastated.”

“I’m just so tired of being made out to be the nasty, unreasonable neighbor when we’re the victim,” she said.

“I’m a firm believer: Good fences make good neighbors,” Newberry said.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.


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