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Reclamation Ridge files opening brief in suit against town of Granby

The sign at the front entrance to Reclamation Ridge gravel pit.
File photo / Lance Maggart

An ongoing lawsuit between the town of Granby and a local gravel pit continues to move through the court system in Grand County with no immediate resolution in sight.

Earlier this year, in late March, the plaintiff in the case, Reclamation Ridge, LLC, filed an amended complaint against the town. The amended complaint follows an initial complaint filed by legal counsel representing Reclamation Ridge in late October 2018, shortly after the town ruled that Reclamation Ridge was in violation of a conditional use permit that governs operations at the pit.

In late August 2018, the Granby Board found Reclamation Ridge in violation of its conditional use permit in relation to gravel and other stockpiled pit materials being visible from neighboring properties. In late September 2018 the Town levied a $2,500 fine on Reclamation Ridge for the violation. Less than a month later, on Oct. 23, attorneys for Reclamation Ridge filed a lawsuit in 14th Judicial District Court in Grand County.

On March 25, attorneys for Reclamation Ridge filed an amended complaint that lists 12 specific claims which they contend support their argument that the Town of Granby “abused its discretion and exceeded its jurisdiction” when it found Reclamation Ridge in violation of the conditional use permit. Among the 12 specific points are claims such as the town “allowed non-residents, who do not have standing, to file complaints against the Plaintiff” and “the Town of Granby abused its discretion by putting the burden on the Plaintiff.”

Also filed on March 25 by attorney’s representing Reclamation Ridge was a plaintiff’s opening brief. The 18-page document outlines Reclamation Ridge’s arguments and includes six separate issues presented for review. In the brief, attorney’s for the pit argue, amongst other arguments, that Reclamation Ridge committed no actual violations of the conditional use permit and that Granby failed to give the pit the opportunity to rectify issues the town deemed to be violations. The brief claims that no “competent evidence” exists in the record to sustain the finding of the board and that the conditions in the permit are vague and violate the pit’s procedural due process rights. It also argues that Granby relied upon “outside evidence and experience in a manner that prejudged the situation.”

In early December, legal counsel representing the Town filed a response to Reclamation Ridge’s initial complaint filing. That response notes that Granby denied all allegations listed in the complaint. As of late last week Granby’s legal representatives had not yet filed a response to the amended complaint or the Plaintiff’s Opening Brief. According to court officials Granby currently has until May 28 to file their response to the brief. The town can also seek an extension of time from the court to file their responses.

The incidents at the heart of the legal dispute represent the second time in two years Granby ruled that Reclamation Ridge had violated its conditional use permit. In August 2016 Granby also ruled the pit was in violation of its permit, in relation to the pit’s permitted operational hours, and fined the business $1,500.

The gravel pit is also in the midst of seeking an updated conditional use permit for gravel pit operations from the town. A public hearing was held on the subject last Tuesday night that ended inconclusively after local citizens raised a series of concerns about the verbiage within the permit.

One local citizens even raised the issue of the height of stockpiled materials during comments he made to the Board of Trustees, however the board informed the citizen that the Town and Reclamation Ridge were “in litigation about that issue” and quickly moved on to discuss other topics contained within the conditional use permit.

In Silverthorne, Gov. Jared Polis signs two major health care bills into law

Gov. Jared Pols, seated right of center, signs SB19-004 Address High-Cost Health Insurance Pilot Program, into law while flanked left to right by Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, state House Rep. Dylan Roberts (D-Eagle), Rep. Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon), state Sen. Kerry Donovan and state insurance commissioner Michael Conway.
Deepan Dutta / ddutta@summitdaily.com

In Silverthorne, Gov. Jared Polis signs two major health care bills into law

Gov. Jared Polis visited Summit County on Friday as part of a bill-signing tour from Westminster to Grand Junction touting legislative accomplishments made in the first five months of his governorship. In Summit, Polis signed bills bolstering winter traction laws and right-of-way for snow plows on the state’s roads, as well as bills that aim to lower the cost of health insurance.

On the health care front, Polis visited the Family & Intercultural Resource Center in Silverthorne to sign two major bills aimed at lowering premiums, especially on the Western Slope where residents pay among the highest premiums in the country.

The first bill Polis signed was HB19-168, the State Innovation Waiver Reinsurance Program, which establishes a program for insurance companies that is expected to almost immediately reduce premiums for Summit and Western Slope residents, particularly members of the individual insurance market who are seeing the biggest premium hikes.

The bill was touted as a major legislative accomplishment, given how it took 119 of the session’s 120 days to pass and required extensive consensus-building before it came to fruition.

“This bill will make an enormous difference in the short-term,” Polis said before signing the bill. “People on the Western Slope should expect a price reduction of 20% to 35% next year.”

State Sen. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale) said the bill was the “craziest, most complicated” bill to get passed, while co-sponsor Rep. Julie McCluskie said the bill addressed one of the main priorities for her constituents in the High Country.

“Reinsurance was the heaviest lift of any bill we carried this year,” McCluskie said. “It was a complex policy, the goals were lofty, and in the end, I could not be more proud of our work to keep stakeholders at the table and deliver reduced premiums to people in the individual market.”

The second bill, SB19-004, titled Address High-Cost Health Insurance Pilot Program, was inspired by Summit County’s own Peak Health Alliance health care purchasing collaborative. The bill cleans up existing statutory language to make it easier for other communities to replicate the co-op purchasing model.

State Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-Vail) was prime sponsor for the bill in the Senate, and said its biggest benefit was to give more power to communities, promoting the ability to rally together and have more leverage in negotiating health costs.

“This bill will give small communities the power and voice to negotiate lower health costs,” Donovan said. “We’re taking the power from the golden dome in Denver and bringing it up to the mountains.”

Polis was also flanked at the signing by Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera and state Legislature Rep. Janice Rich (R-Grand Junction), who co-sponsored the reinsurance program bill, and state Sen. Dylan Roberts (D-Eagle), who co-sponsored the pilot program bill.

Tamara Drangstveit, currently executive director of FIRC, who will be starting her new position as executive director of the Peak Health Alliance in July, said she was proud of how the work she and other community leaders put into building Peak developed into the model officially sanctioned for use across the state.

“I am so grateful to this administration that they really focus on health care, and see what a crisis it is for Summit workers,” she said. “It’s incredibly rewarding for FIRC that all of our hard work over the past decade is starting to pay off.”

Endless winter: Aspen Mountain will open for Memorial Day Weekend skiing

Aspen’s endless winter will pay dividends with lift-served skiing on the top of Aspen Mountain on Memorial Day Weekend.

Aspen Skiing Co. announced Thursday it will open 130 acres on Aspen Mountain for skiing and snowboarding Saturday through Monday, May 25 to 27. The holiday weekend also marks the start of summer operations.

The Silver Queen Gondola will operate from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to haul skiers, snowboarders and sightseers to the mountaintop. The Ajax Express chairlift will be available for laps from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. All mountain visitors must download on the gondola.

Skico said the upper intermediate runs as well as more difficult terrain such as Summit and Blondie’s will be open.

Aspen-Snowmass Premier Passes as well as 6-and-younger passes will provide free access for both skiing and sightseeing. Discounted pricing for Flex, Double Flex, Classic, Club Escape, School, AVSC, Ikon and Mountain Collective passholders is $27 for skiing, $13 for a one-ride sightseeing ticket and $16 for a weekend sightseeing ticket.

For non-passholders, a lift ticket is $54 per day. A sightseer ticket is $27 for one ride or $32 for a weekend ticket providing unlimited rides.

“With a pleasant dropping of additional snow in the last couple weeks, we are excited to kick off Memorial Day weekend and the start of summer operations with skiing/riding on Aspen Mountain,” said Katie Ertl, senior vice president of mountain operations. “The weekend will offer classic conditions for a Colorado multi-sport weekend with the town green and the mountain painted white.”

The Sundeck Restaurant will be open for food and drinks. A DJ will spin tunes on the outside deck Saturday and Sunday.

Grand County’s district attorney resigns

Grand County District Attorney Brett Barkey
Courtesy photo |

The 14th Judicial District Attorney Brett Barkey today submitted his letter of resignation to Gov. Jared Polis.

Barkey, whose jurisdiction includes Grand, Routt and Moffat counties, has served in the position since 2012.

“It has been the highlight of over three decades of public service to lead the dedicated team of professionals in this office,” Barkey said in a statement.

Barkey said it was “the right time” to hand the office to its next leaders because of volunteer and educational opportunities available to him.

His current term was set to expire in 2020.

Barkey, who launched an unsuccessful run last year for state treasurer, recommended to Polis that Assistant District Attorney Matt Karzen be named his replacement.

Karzen would bring over 25 years of prosecution experience to the job, according to Barkey.  

“The office could be in no better hands,” Barkey said.

His resignation is effective July 1.

Plowing at 11,796 feet: Crews reach a buried Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park snowplow operators came across fully buried buildings late Wednesday when they reached the Alpine Visitor Center and Trail Ridge Store.

At an elevation of 11,796 feet, park staff are used to the buildings being under snow, but this year there was much more.

Additional snow is forecast for higher elevations later this weekend and through early next week. Given the forecast, as well as the snow amounts, it’s too soon to tell whether Trail Ridge Road will be open by Memorial Day weekend to vehicles, according to the park.

Winter’s over and the snowplow crews are back to work, getting ready for the summer season.

But how does the park prepare for the winter? Read all about it by clicking on the link below.

Buried buildings, endless feet of snow: How Rocky Mountain National Park crews prep the park for winter

Doc Susie’s former neighbor to launch book detailing legendary Grand County physician

Susan Anderson was born in Indiana but made her way to Colorado when the lure of the Colorado Gold Rush called to her father in 1892. The family settled in Anaconda, near Cripple Creek. Her father did not strike it rich, and Susan left Cripple Creek to attend the University of Michigan School of Medicine in 1893.

In 1897, she returned to Cripple Creek but the resistance to female physicians, the death of her brother, and abandonment by her fiancé, caused Dr. Anderson to take jobs in Denver and Greeley.  

In 1907, she began a medical practice in Fraser, Colorado, that continued until age and ill health forced her to close her practice in 1958. Known to all in Grand County as Doc Susie, she was the only physician in the area and treated both humans and their animals. Doc Susie was at bedsides and in her office through all kinds of weather and for all kinds of medical care. She also served as county coroner, and when the Moffat Tunnel was being built, Doc Susie treated injured workers. Her legacy remains strong in Fraser, where a street is named for her and a statue stands in the Walk Through History Park. 

Author Owen Briggs has unique insights and knowledge of Doc Susie. His home as a child was next door to Doc’s office and home. Owen’s aunt was executor of Doc’s will and had the responsibility of clearing out Doc’s house after she passed away in Denver in 1960. “DOC SUSIE: My Neighbor” contains photographs of many of the items left to Owen’s aunt and passed on to him. The book is the author’s first published work, and a labor of love he worked to write and publish for several years. He resides in Colorado Springs with his wife, Dorie.

Launch events are planned for May 30 and 31 in Fraser when Owen will speak to the students of Fraser Valley Elementary School on Thursday, May 30, and present a program to the Grand County Historical Society at Cozens Ranch Museum at 6:30 pm, also on May 30.

The Fraser events conclude with a presentation at the Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA on Friday, May 31, at 7 p.m. The Historical Society and YMCA talks are free and open to the public.  

County commissioner seeks to lower speed limit on Red Dirt Hill in wake of fatal crash

The illustration above shows the rough area of Red Dirt Hill, along Highway 40, near where Wednesday’s fatal crash occurred.
Illustration by Bryce Martin

Concerns were raised about the safety of traffic on Red Dirt Hill this week following the fatal crash that killed an elderly couple on Wednesday.

Red Dirt Hill, the portion of Highway 40 from about milepost 217 to 222 between Granby and Tabernash, has been the scene of many car crashes and fatalities over the years. Many travelers consider the stretch of road a hazard due to its tight curves, steep elevation and poor visibility.

The car crash Wednesday that claimed the lives of a 77-year-old man and 75-year-old woman occurred just past milepost 219, near where the eastbound passing lane merges into a single lane.

There were 14 crashes in that area, between mileposts 218.75 and 219.25, from Jan. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2017, according to data obtained by Sky-Hi News from the Colorado Department of Transportation. Of those 14 incidents, two injuries were reported. Three of the incidents involved a vehicle that overturned and only two occurred during snow, sleet or hail. Of the total, eight involved wildlife.

But that data represents just a half-mile of Red Dirt Hill.

Grand County Commissioner Richard Cimino told Sky-Hi News on Thursday that he would pursue getting a reduced speed limit on Red Dirt Hill. The county would bring it up for discussion at a future meeting of the board of commissioners, he said.

Though, that’s not a guarantee the speed limit would change.

According to Mark Bunnell, a CDOT resident engineer for Region 3 traffic and safety, said there is a process to change a road’s speed limit.

Red Dirt Hill’s current speed limit, 65 mph, was established by Colorado law. To change it, according to Bunnell, the issue must be presented to a special group that handles speed studies with CDOT.

“They look at a particular stretch of road for any sight distance issues, the lack of development along side the roads, they look at the free-flow speed — what are people driving today,” he explained. “They take all those factors into consideration in determining what the appropriate speed limit should be on a particular stretch of road.”

It’s not CDOT’s responsibility to initiate the change of speed limits. Instead, he said, it is the duty of local government.

“We look to the local governments to contact us to initiate them,” he confirmed.

Bunnell said he wasn’t aware of any speed studies conducted on the Red Dirt Hill stretch of the highway.

And while a total of 14 crashes might seem high, according to Bunnell, factoring out the wildlife collisions, the actual number of crashes for that specific part of Red Dirt Hill would be below the average of what is expected on such a roadway.

Permit for controversial Granby gravel pit stalls in fraught public hearing

The sign at the front entrance to Reclamation Ridge gravel pit.
File photo / Lance Maggart

A public hearing for a conditional-use permit on a controversial gravel pit in Granby ended inconclusively Tuesday night.

The Granby Board of Trustees held the hearing Tuesday on a proposed permit for Reclamation Ridge, a gravel pit operation located off West Meadow Road in Granby, a short distance east of U.S. Highway 34. The permit, if approved, would allow for the continuation and potential expansion of Reclamation Ridge’s operations under a set of specifically outlined conditions.

The public hearing lasted roughly an hour-and-a-half and included comment from Reclamation Ridge’s in-house legal counsel, Jeff Culbertson, as well as two local residents who own property in the vicinity around the gravel pit. Culbertson told the board he believes the application is complete, the use is compatible with the area and that the pit is in compliance with all state requirements.

He touched on the scope of view from surrounding properties of the operations, which, per the permit, restricts the pit’s equipment, stockpiled materials and operations from being visible.

Culbertson contended that certain leeway for the scope of viewing was warranted as some of the surrounding properties are able to look directly onto the pit’s floor. He further claimed that other industrial operations in the area do not require to not be visible to neighboring properties.

“One thing we asked for is that we be treated like any other industrial operation,” Culbertson told the board.

He later said he believes Reclamation Ridge has a “target on our back.”

Granby Trustee Natascha O’Flaherty noted that the pit’s permit application contemplates potentially expanding the pit laterally into a nearby lot.

O’Flaherty explained that the pit’s owner, Ken Evans, previously told the board the pit’s gravel mining work would be completed last fall.

“Is this for an expansion of the pit?” O’Flaherty questioned. “What are you actually asking to do?”

Culbertson answered that the pit is not currently mining or extracting gravel. But could not do so anyway without the conditional-use permit.

Sharon Spurlin, a Grand County resident who owns property that she claims is impacted by the pit’s operations, spoke to the board on behalf of several other local citizens who live in the vicinity around the pit. She outlined a series of concerns she and others have, asking the board to impose more restrictive limitations such as those for the pit’s hours of operation and dust mitigation requirements.

A major sticking point during the discussion, and a significant factor that led to the issue being continued with no decision, was an ongoing debate regarding the definition of the term “pit operations.” The debate is pertinent because the pit’s “operations” are restricted under the conditional-use permit to specific times of day, Monday through Saturday. The pit cannot conduct operations outside those hours. If they are found to have operated outside these hours, the pit can be fined or even lose the permit that allows for its continued operation.

Reclamation Ridge contended that operations should be defined as mining and crushing operations and that activities such as maintenance, repair and sales should not fall under the definition of operations.

Spurlin and other local residents lobbied for a more expansive definition that would include “any and all gravel pit business.”

“We need to clearly define operation of a gravel pit so the neighbors know what to expect,” said Nathan Krob, legal counsel for the town of Granby.

Both the town and Reclamation Ridge agreed to continue the issue until the board’s next meeting, May 28, to provide time to work on a definition of gravel pit operations and to review other concerns raised by Spurlin and nearby property owners.

The gravel pit has been a controversial topic at times for the town of Granby as citizen living around it have lodged complaints about its operations multiple times over the past several years.

In August 2016, the town imposed a $1,500 fine on the pit after ruling it had violated a condition limiting its hours of operation. Two years late, the Granby Board of Trustees ruled that the pit was in violation of its permit because gravel pit equipment and stockpiled material was visible from neighboring properties.

That violation, which resulted in a $2,500 fine, led Reclamation Ridge to file a lawsuit in late October.

The town of Granby’s legal counsel filed an initial response to the suit in early December. Officials from the town board noted that the issue was still in litigation as of Tuesday night.

Wanted: Volunteers to assist Forest Service

Are you looking for an opportunity to be actively engaged in showing your concern for the mountain environment and the wilderness areas of Grand County?

The Grand County Wilderness Group has been providing exactly those kinds of opportunities for over 20 years. They are a group of 120 volunteers who participate in trail maintenance, cabin hosting and educating the public regarding regulations in wilderness areas under the direction of the Sulphur Ranger district of the U.S. Forest Service.

There are volunteer activities to fit everyone’s physical and interest level, including:

Trail work including reroutes and maintenance with a special interest in the trail to Columbine Lake.

Forest service cabin hosting at Monarch Lake and Junco Lake which involves greeting area visitors, advising them on possible activities in the area, and communicating forest service rules and policies.

Other activities include an invasive weed eradication effort around Monarch Lake, bluebird box and osprey nest monitoring (an activity that may interest youth), monofilament collection for recycling and trailhead registration box monitoring.

Find more information at www.gcwg.org, or attend the spring member’s meeting, an annual planning and information session accompanied by a potluck. This year’s meeting takes place at 5:30 p.m. May 18 in the Rawley Room at Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA. The guest speaker is Ralph Swain, regional wilderness and rivers program manager. All are welcome.

Opinion | Hamilton: WANTED: A diplomatic/military ‘magic wand’

Bill Hamilton
Courtesy Photo

In 2016, President Obama said Candidate Donald Trump would have to possess a “magic wand” to do what President Trump has just done for the U.S. economy. But what if President Trump had a diplomatic/military “magic wand” that would threaten the post-Castro communist regime in Cuba to the point that the 25,000 Cuba troops in Venezuela had to hasten back to Cuba? For sure, the days of Venezuelan dictator, Nicolas Maduro, would be numbered. Consequently, Putin would have to abort the military base he is building in Venezuela.

Currently, the U.S. faces several serious challenges and also opportunities that the U.S. might well address sooner, rather than later. As Brutus said in Julius Caesar Act 4, Scene 3:”There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune…”

Given the right diplomatic/military “magic wand” with regard to Cuba and Venezuela the U.S. might put the Russians and the Red Chinese on notice that the Western Hemisphere is neither the Volga nor the Yangtze Rivers.

Meanwhile, Iran is making war-like threats. But do not worry. The U.S. has forces in place to swat Iran like a fly. For now, Red China and Russia pose the greater threats.

Even though Red China is 700 miles from the SpratlyIslands, she wants to lay claim to what could be billions of barrels of undersea oil. And, as usual, the Red Chinese threaten to invade our allies on Taiwan. Fortunately, we, Japan, Australia, France, and the UK are routinely conducting Freedom of Navigation exercises through the Spratly waters, and through the Taiwan Strait. 

Meanwhile, the Red Chinese, with their control of the Panama Canal, the ports at each end, their port on Grand Bahama Island, and their Bridge and Road Initiative (BRI) contracts with six Caribbean nations nation are shredding what is left of the Monroe Doctrine.

Apparently, to complicate the U.S.-China trade talks, Beijing ordered Kim Jong-un to test some short-range missiles. Note that “Rocket Man” does whatever Chinese President Xi Jinping orders him to do.

But the most immediate threats to the U.S. involve the humanitarian and security crises on our southern border and the collapse of Socialist Venezuela. Increasing Russian involvement in both Venezuela and Cuba poses a serious security problem for the U.S.

As a result of President Obama’s liberalization of travel between Cuba and the U.S., southern Florida has seen an influx of Socialism-indoctrinated migrants who left economically-depressed Cuba for more abundant living in southern Florida. Once they get the chance to vote, legally or illegally, odds are they will vote for the only system they have ever known, turning Florida from red to blue.

Granted, after 60 years of trying, the U.S. has been unsuccessful in cutting Cuba off from Russia. But one wonders how long President Trump will tolerate what is, in effect, a Russian aircraft carrier afloat just 90 miles from Key West? 

If there comes a tide in the affairs of the United States when a diplomatic/military “magic wand” needs to be found, it may well be now under a President who seems determined to put an end to the foreign policy mistakes of the last five decades.

Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. Dr. Hamilton is the author of The Wit and Wisdom of William Hamilton: the Sage of Sheepdog Hill, PegasusImprimis Press (2017). “Central View,” can also be seen at: www.central-view.com.