Eagle County Planning Commission denies gravel pit in 4-2 vote
More than 30 locals speak out against proposed gravel pit near the Colorado River
After hearing hours of testimony from the local community on Wednesday, the Eagle County Planning Commission voted in favor of denying applications for a gravel mine near the Colorado River in Eagle County near Dotsero.
The mine required an exception to the Dotsero Area Community Plan as well as a special use permit. Both were denied by a 4-2 vote.
Dee Wisor, Leah Mayer, Tim Carpenter and Bobby Warner voted in favor of denying the exception and the application, while Greg Moffet and Brian Judge voted against the denial.
Carpenter said the testimony from the community changed his mind. More than 30 locals spoke out against the idea to remove roughly 225,000 tons of gravel per year from the 107-acre area near the Colorado River.
“I was not in agreement with the county staff report the last time we met on this; with all the public comment I have heard I have reevaluated my first view on this,” he said. “But I’m still very much on the fence on this, because I do think this is in the public interest, as part of the bigger picture for the county.”
Judge encouraged the applicant, Rincon Materials and Dotsero Resident Mike Young, to come back with another project.
“Maybe, as something, as a greater community benefit, maybe with more clarification to the opponents, knowing that you’re trying to do the right thing related to the river,” Judge said.
Not needed in Dotsero Latino community
Dozens of opponents spoke out, citing concerns with disturbance to that part of the river corridor, which two river users described as sacred.
Ben McCormick with Cutthroat Anglers in Silverthorne said his shop runs 200 trips down the Colorado into Dotsero every year.
“It’s an open landscape, it feels untouched,” he said. “When you think about the pressure and the crowds and everything that’s going on on the upper Colorado, it couldn’t be more important that we protect this section, it truly is sacred.”
Local resident Norma Gurrola said she attended Wednesday’s meeting to represent the Latino community in the Two Rivers neighborhood in Dotsero. She said Spanish speaking residents hadn’t received information about the project.
“All this information was never delivered to them in Spanish,” she said, saying residents weren’t able to “express themselves or ask questions to anybody in their own language.”
Young said he held a bilingual meeting in the Two Rivers Community Center, but the participation was underwhelming.
“We didn’t have a dozen people, we probably had eight to 10,” he said.
Wednesday’s virtual meeting used a translation service to serve Spanish speaking residents. Gurrola said she has lived in Eagle County for 20 years and Dotsero for three years, and has helped put in a playground and bring the ECO bus to Dotsero. She said she is a neighborhood navigator, “where we encourage all the community to come to us and share with us the different needs.”
Gurrola said a gravel pit does not fit in among the needs of the Dotsero community.
“When I first heard about all this project, my first thought was ‘is that really something that … needs to happen?'” she said.
She also said the area is wildlife habitat which needs to be protected.
“I enjoy watching the eagles while going to stand next to the river,” she said.
Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance chair Michael Browning said the Colorado River Corridor is critical habitat for mountain lions, bear, elk, river otter, eagle, peregrine falcon and heron.
“They all call this area home and this property is used by them,” Browning said, adding that bighorn sheep rear their young in that location.
Browning said the opposition of the mine was a matter of environmental justice.
“Dotsero is an important part of the community, and they should not be stuck with industrial operations that are contrary to their desire, just because they don’t have as much oomph, and weight, as maybe some other areas of the county,” Browning said.
In advocating for the project, longtime Eagle County land use planner Scot Hunn said the alternative isn’t so attractive, either. Hunn pointed out that the area has a resource zone designation, which has no limit on the number of buildings that could cover the parcel, no limit on impervious services, and also allows “alternative energy including solar farms over 10KW, utility distribution facilities, water diversion structures … small-scale wind energy systems, bed and breakfast, a library of all things is a use by right, agriculture uses and buildings, a boarding stable with no limit on size, forestry uses, tree storage, outfitter and guide, those are all uses by right, or limited review uses,” Hunn said.
“So there are other uses that could have greater impacts on these properties,” Hunn added. “No one is saying they’re going to do that, but I just want to make sure everyone out there understands this is private property, and with a building permit and a grading permit, there’s a lot of stuff that could happen on these plateaus.”
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