Gypsum denies gravel pit/Dotsero annexation
GYPSUM — Opponents of a proposal to annex a swath of land located at Dotsero and allow a gravel mine and asphalt production facility have complained that the application materialized without giving the public ample time to digest and react to it.
After nearly three hours of public comment before a standing-room-only crowd Tuesday, the Gypsum Town Council rejected a resolution to initiate annexation of the property, killing the town’s involvement in the gravel mining proposal.
“The gravel operations that were in front of the council were proposed to me three years ago by Elam,” said Coyote River Ranch owner Karl Berger following the vote. “I had the very same concerns that all the folks had regarding the implications of that proposal. I had the advantage of three years to investigate it. Had others involved had the time, maybe that would have eased some of their concerns, maybe not. We will never know.”
Resident Ken Hoeve praised the council’s decision.
“I am sure Elam will now file with the county but the town did the right thing and shot the mine and asphalt plant down, as well as the annexation,” Hoeve said.
The Miller, Taylor, Coyote River Ranch annexation, zoning and special use application sought to expand the town’s boundaries and allow the gravel mine and asphalt plant at a 163-acre property owned by Berger. Elam Construction proposed the gravel operation at the site.
Jon Mueller and Ben Langenfeld detailed the company’s proposal. They said the company has operated out of the gravel pit located below the athletic fields at Eagle for 10 years and said the current gravel sources in Eagle County are waning.
“They have five maybe six years left in them and then they will be done,” said Mueller.
The Elam representatives said the reason for the Coyote River Ranch proposal is simple — geology. Langenfeld displayed a map of gravel operations throughout the state that showed how in Western Colorado, pits are located along rivers.
Elam proposed a total disturbed area of 90.9 acres in three separate areas and an annual gravel extraction of up to 230,000 raw tons. The company representatives said the mining operation would take place behind a large natural berm which would screen the pit visually and would mitigate noise and dust impacts.
“You are never going to have three big pits, mined out, without reclamation,” said Langenfeld. “As they mine through a pit, they are going to do the reclamation behind them.”
The Elam representatives also stressed that they would be working with Berger to create pasture land at the site. “In many ways what you are going to end up with is what he has already built down to the river,” said Langenfeld.
Property neighbors, Colorado River Road dwellers and Dotsero residents showed up in force Tuesday night to protest the plan. They questioned Elam’s assertions that dust and noise would be mitigated by the berm and cited concerns about truck traffic, wildlife impacts and property values.
In what became an evening refrain, neighboring property owner Claudia Bryan asked “What is the community benefit?”
“We do not want to see it. We do not want to hear it and we do not want to smell it in our beautiful Colorado River environment,” she said.
Several area residents noted that Eagle County’s Dotsero master plan calls for recreational uses in the area and questioned how the mining operation could co-exist with river rafting, fishing and other outdoor uses in the valley.
“I think it is fair to say many of us feel an asphalt operation is unacceptable next to recreational uses,” said resident Paul St. Ruth. “This proposal is going to have inescapable and irrevocable environmental impacts.”
“Even if they run a tight ship, property values will be affected,” St. Ruth added.
Residents of the nearby Two Rivers Village echoed that concern. Eagle resident Sean Boggs noted that the community plan for Two Rivers touts the development as an affordable family community. He said lower income residents have made an investment to purchase homes there, often living paycheck to paycheck to afford them.
“If this project lowers the value of their homes it’s simply not fair,” said Boggs. “In my view, its not what that spot needs.”
Following the vote Tuesday Berger said he wanted to respond to some of the public comment made at the meeting to address some misconceptions about the proposal.
“The consensus was we had gone in front of the council to seek annexation to approve the gravel operations. The fact is, there was a group of five landowners several years ago that had met with the town to investigate the possibility of annexation prior to any special use permit,” said Berger. “The concerns we had were the current land uses in the areas along the frontage roads.”
Eagle County has a master plan for the area, and property owners provided input, Berger said.
“It is a well thought-out and a quite wonderful plan, but the problem is, Eagle County will not develop this plan, it only serves a guideline,” Berger said. “It takes individual investors and stakeholders to invest in Dotsero and to implement the plan. As it sits currently, no one with the resources to do so will, until these issues are resolved.”
Berger said his hope is that Dotsero-area property owners can work to bring more activity to the area.
“The possibilities here are amazing,” Berger said. We have a large area between two interchanges that could provide services and benefits to the landowners, river users, hunters and other people that enjoy our area. The county master plan recognizes this very well.”
But, he added, until property owners, residents and county officials can address issues including existing, non-conforming uses, it’s unlikely any changes will take place.