Grand County officials need to be more open about transfer station
February 5, 2009
To the Editor:
During the summer construction and remodel of the county facilities, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and county staff kept the Town of Hot Sulphur Springs apprised of everything, even small details. It was remarked in a BOCC general meeting that they (BOCC) don’t want to do something without them (town) knowing about it and not appearing to be a “big brother.”
Why then, was there absolutely no communication with the town during the last six months over the possibility of an enormous 9,200 square foot garbage transfer station? Mr. Newberry stated, “…this was the worst job of communicating in his 12 years.” Essentially, they want us to believe the BOCC, the county manager or other staff all forgot to mention it for six months. Our elected officials and staff should have been falling over themselves to work with the town and its residents on something like this.
Back in July the county started looking at “consolidating” county and town property next to the cemetery in HSS so that it’s more “usable.” The town denied this request at their August meeting.
There were 6 acres of prime real estate for sale for $300,000 on U.S. Highway 40 at the edge of town. The owner applied for a zoning change from Forest and Open to Business sometime around Oct. 1. The Planning Commission approved it on Nov. 12 and the BOCC gave final approval in the general meeting on Dec. 23. The BOCC then bought said 6 acres right after the general meeting in an executive session. Plus, the seller wanted to close by Dec. 31 for tax reasons.
Still, no one called the town. Is one person’s wish more important than the entire town?
If the county had bought the land at the time it was still zoned Forest and Open this would have sent up red flags. That is actually the correct zoning application for a Transfer Station, Landfill, Junkyard, mines, quarries, etc. ” in other words, a large commercial operation. According to the Grand County Zoning Regulations in Section VI this would also require a Special Review. A Special Review is detailed in Section XI and includes, “a public hearing” and “Evaluation of the broad ecosystems, topography, soils, hydrology, geology, vegetation, wildlife, climate, and unique fractures…” But when the owner applied for a zoning change to open an auto body repair shop that went virtually unnoticed.
That this is all coincidence and that someone forgot to say something is not believable. It appears we were intentionally misled and not informed.
Now, the BOCC claims the Transfer Station will fall under the “Uses Permitted” category for a Business zone and it does not require a Special Review. Some examples listed in Section IX not requiring a Special Review are bakeries, clothing stores, florists, light manufacturing, barber shops, and the like. The BOCC wants us to believe a Transfer Station is the same as a florist or bakery. According to the zoning regulations the proper application for zoning a Transfer Station is Forest and Open. This is very clear in Section VI. This would require public hearings, environmental impact studies and the like. Somehow the BOCC feels a Transfer Station does not require a Special Review now that it owns the land. This is preposterous.
More importantly, why wouldn’t the BOCC want to go through the Special Review process anyway? Gardiner Creek goes through the property from the hillside and right into the Colorado River about a 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 mile away and is the water supply for the town. Surely this is an issue. In a town hall meeting Mr. Newberry attended he said he didn’t know the creek was there. Shouldn’t the BOCC have known before they bought the land what was on it and the possible ecosystem and wildlife impacts? Are they afraid the Special Review process would eliminate the use of the land for a Transfer Station, causing further embarrassment? Why are they taking chances with our water supply?
Also, the BOCC should have given the opportunity for comments from all the residents of the county before deciding on land for a Transfer Station. This affects everyone. After all, nobody wants a Transfer Station two blocks from their backyard. A viable solution should be found for everyone.
It’s time for the BOCC and the county staff to be open and honest instead of trying to fly under the radar or having Road and Bridge trying sell their decision after the fact in song and dance meetings. Even if you don’t live in HSS I encourage you to call the BOCC and tell them to do the right thing. We expect better from our elected officials than to arbitrarily put a giant trash compactor in your backyard. That is wrong, and they managed to make an entire town angry.
Hot Sulphur Springs