Gypsum mulls proposal to extend boundaries to Dotsero, allow gravel mining and production operation
November 13, 2016
GYPSUM — Gypsum could grow by nearly 172 acres toward Dotsero and permit a new gravel mining operation that will remove up to 230,000 raw tons of material throughout a 12-year period as the result of an annexation and special use action launched this week.
The Gypsum Town Council on Tuesday held its first public hearing for the Taylor, Miller Coyote River Ranch annexation, zoning and special use file. The council approved a series of 11 resolutions and ordinances that will launch the process to bring the properties into the town's boundaries and allow a new gravel mining and asphalt and concrete production operation at the 163-acre Coyote River Ranch property owned by Karl Berger.
The Taylor property of approximately 6 acres and the Miller property of 2.5 acres must be annexed prior to the Coyote River Ranch action to meet contiguity requirements and bring the larger parcel into the town. Berger is working with Elam Construction to propose the gravel mining operation
"The gravel mining operations will be conducted on his properties east of the Union Pacific Railroad and be accessed from Highway 6 through the Taylor property," Gypsum Town Planner Lana Gallegos said in her review of the proposal. "The tops of the asphalt and concrete batch plants may be visible from Highway 6 directly south, but ground activity should not be visible from this location. Higher elevations from the west or from the roundabout may show plant activities a little, but mining operations further north will be mitigated with a natural berm along the railroad tracks until mining is complete, at which time the berm will be removed and reclamation of this area will occur and match final reclamation plans."
Jon Mueller, of Elam Construction, presented the annexation and use proposal to the council. He said the annexation request is an attempt to resolve a "jurisdictional stalemate." Because the lands involved are in Dotsero, which is not a municipality but rather an area of unincorporated Eagle County, the county has the final say on land use issues. The Gypsum annexation would "give the town a good sense of how to drive this."
Gravel Production Concerns
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"Right now there are only a few gravel operations in the county, which is driving up prices," said Mueller.
Mueller maintained that impacts from the operation will be minimized by berms planned at the property and by the relatively remote location.
"It is unlikely you will hear any noise from the Colorado River Road or from the Colorado River if you are a boater," he said.
But neighboring property owner Matt Bryan disputed that claim.
"Ten days ago, I received notice from the town of Gypsum that not only disturbed me but also appeared to be completely out of context for where I plan to reside in Dotsero," said Bryan.
Bryan protested the projected 200 truck trips per day and the noise, diesel odor and dust impacts associated with the gravel operation located only 150 feet from the Colorado River.
Bryan maintained the proposed use does not fit with the town's stated master plan goal to "maintain a friendly and informal small town atmosphere." He protested the plan as an illogical leap of annexation and an alarming proposed use. Bryan questioned whether the town has done enough to inform people about the proposal.
"No one from the Colorado River Road is here. This will affect them too, and they are not here," he said.
Gypsum resident Michelle Lake echoed that concern. "Why didn't we know about this meeting? We are citizens of the town of Gypsum and it seems important," she said.
In response, town staff noted that the annexation notice was mailed to neighboring properties within 300 feet of the proposal and properly published in the county's legal newspaper. Beyond those legal requirements, town council members stressed that this week's action just begins the consideration of the annexation and gravel production application.
"There is going to be a lot of time to comment. This is just the start of the process," said council member Chris Estes.
Publication of the annexation petition will begin after Tuesday's meeting, and that requirement will continue for the next four weeks, when the town council will again debate the project's merits during a public hearing. It appears that members of the council are divided about the project's merits.
"I don't believe a gravel pit is at the top of the list for what we should have at the gateway to the Flat Tops," said council member Pam Schultz.
Council member Dick Mayne noted he is in favor of the annexation, but he has concerns about the gravel operation.
"I am not impressed with the quality of the reclamation of gravel pits along the Eagle River," said Mayne. "I realize there is a need for gravel, but I feel the pits need to be held to a higher standard of quality."
Bryan asked the town to consider other locations for gravel pit mining, suggesting the area north of town along Trail Gulch Road. However, Elam officials noted there has been extensive study regarding the location of local gravel deposits and that isn't where the resource lies.
"This (the Coyote River Ranch location) is one of the last reserves for good quality gravel locally," said Greg Monger of Elam.
Berger said the gravel pit area covers land that doesn't currently support vegetation. He argued an eventual reclamation plan will actually enhance the area.
"Unfortunately, first we have to mine the gravel," said Berger. "Nobody likes to look at a gravel pit, but other than this, there are no reserves known."