Inadvertent Grand County vote briefly shuts down gravel pit
Sky-Hi Daily News
It was a close call for Thompson Gravel Pit lease operator Ted Pratt and local Redi-Mix concrete batch plant owner Sam Conger when county commissioners nearly voted them out of business.
In a rare occurrence Monday, county commissioners voted twice on the same action after a public hearing.
In an initial vote, commissioners inadvertently voted not to approve Pratt’s and Conger’s privilege of doing business at a mining operation, wash plant, asphalt plant, and concrete batch plant on the 69.6-acre Thompson Properties in Granby.
After a split 1-1 vote, with Commissioner Gary Bumgarner recused for a conflict of interest (he owns a gravel pit in Kremmling), county commissioners failed to renew Thompson Properties’ special use permit, then voted to close the public hearing.
This translated into Pratt and Conger not being able to continue their businesses, which would have resulted in at least 15 employees put out of work and the loss of “hundreds-of-thousands of dollars invested in equipment,” Pratt said.
Confusion, followed by shock, was visible among a roomful of meeting attendees.
Realizing the consequences of their vote, the commissioners voted to reopen the public hearing, since most of the public was still present.
“The first vote didn’t fly,” County Attorney Jack DiCola explained.
But that vote had seemed like a small victory for neighbors of the concrete operation.
They were at the meeting to object to a near 20-acre residential parcel approved last year for rezoning, which has since become the subject of a controversial pit expansion.
Neighbors are upset that conditions in the expansion agreement, amended in the permit, were not carried out ” a natural berm built to buffer mining noise, shrubs planted by an October deadline, and reduced hours of operation, among them.
The portion of the mesa, deemed to have glacial gravel deposits not found everywhere, is located within 110 feet of neighboring property, zoned residential.
Neighbors also testified to suspicious use of water, which was not taken under advisement by commissioners who said the water usage was under the jurisdiction of the district water commissioner and the state, and that proof was provided for Thompson Properties’ rights to water.
Although opposed to the pit expansion and the perceived lack of concessions to mitigate future impacts, none of the neighbors said they were opposed to the existing pit operation, located out of sight on the other side of the hill.
That pit has been in operation for 22 years, on land with gravel-pit history as far back as the 1940s when aggregate was needed for projects such as the Willow Creek Reservoir, the Granby Dam and, later, U.S. 34 to Grand Lake.
The berm in question, as was revealed at the meeting, was not officially listed on the special use permit granted to the Thompson brothers Larry and Gary last year, letting them off the hook until an amendment later.
As far as other conditions, they were considered in violation of not planting the shrubs as advised by the permit, which Pratt said was due to a lack of communication between the owner and the landscaper.
The project didn’t get done in time, causing Bumgarner to oppose the permit, thus recusing himself from the first vote.
But in a second vote, he moved to pass the permit with the condition that the expansion property not be mined until the shrub plantings were established. The County Natural Resources Department would be the judge of when that happens.
Although Commissioner James Newberry denied the permit in the first vote, he approved it in the second with the understanding that no mining operations could take place until neighbors’ concerns about the berm, shrubs and hours of operation were mitigated.
Commissioner Nancy Stuart, who made a motion similar to Bumgarner’s in the first round of voting, remained consistent with two approvals.
Thus, commissioners went from a mixed vote to unanimous approval.
“They nearly bankrupted two businesses that provide a lot to the economy here,” Pratt said.
Like other neighbors, Bill Hanson, who has owned his property with wife Jill since 1997, didn’t feel others’ relief in that the special use permit got a second chance.
“I’m a little disappointed they can change their mind right when they just voted,” he said.
” To reach reporter Tonya Bina, 970-887-3334 ext. 19603, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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