Shaking up the gravel business in Eagle County
County approves 37-acre pit between Eagle and Gypsum, proposed by new local firm
GYPSUM — Gravel mining operations have dotted the landscape between Eagle and Gypsum for years, but this week the Eagle County commissioners approved an operation that shakes up the status quo.
The Tower Pit will mine gravel from a location south of U.S. Highway 6 and it will be operated by a new local partnership.
The mining operation will involve 36.7 acres adjacent to the Eagle County Airport near the Colorado Army National Guard High-Altitude Aviation Training Site, on the north side of the airport property. The mining operation will be run by a new entity — Eagle Rocks Aggregate — which is a partnership of two local excavating companies. Site Resource Management, owned by Chris and Shannon Fedrizzi and Arena Excavating, owned by Steve and Jen Jewett, formed the new company. Merv Lapin owns the Tower Pit property.
Several individuals and construction business owners offered public comment in support of the Tower Pit plan during the commissioner’s public hearing this week. They noted that there is currently a local gravel monopoly, with United Companies being the only entity selling aggregate materials in Eagle County.
“I strongly believe that this would promote healthy competition and provide competitive prices for Eagle County residents and businesses,” said Bart Ewing, of Ewing Trucking and Construction. “Lower prices on aggregate material means lower construction costs across the board. This is beneficial to every resident in the county.”
Meets conditions and county need
According to the Eagle County staff review of the Tower Pit project, the mine will consist of sand and gravel operations to supply material to construction projects throughout the region. The pit may accept concrete and asphalt materials that have been removed from existing sites so they can be recycled. As part of the Special Use approval, an asphalt plant and/or concrete batch plant would be allowed on the site.
The county’s approval to mine the approximately 37 acres, stipulated that no more than 10 acres of the property would be disturbed at any one time with most active mining happening between May to October. According to the application, the mine will be in operation for approximately 12 years, with two years at the end of the operation to allow for completion of reclamation. The term of the special use permit is 14 years.
“Staff has evaluated the application against the standards for a special use permit and has considered all referral comments,” noted county planner Sean Hanagan. “The highly visible location of the site and proposed operation; the potential for dust, noise and vibrations from the operation; and the proximity to U.S. 6 and the Eagle County Airport are all critical issues that were evaluated in depth.”
Along with the various county criteria, the project was vetted by the Federal Aviation Administration. “The FAA made the determination that it was ‘no hazard to air navigation,'” Hanagan said.
County staff and the Eagle County Planning Commission both recommended approval of the Tower Pit proposal.
Looking at Tower Pit site on a map, the area appears to be a highly visible site.
“I think a lot of people think that, but that has been one of our big points of contention,” Fedrizzi said. “We actually feel it will be less visible than pits north of Highway 6.”
To illustrate his point, Fedrizzi noted that US6 motorists can’t currently see the HAATS building. He said the same will be true for the Tower Pit.
“For five or six years, it will be hard to know there is even a gravel operation there,” Fedrizzi said. “We will be working behind a hillside and we will always have a minimum 12-foot berm that will be hiding our operation.”
As part of their approval, the county commissioners attached several conditions to the special use permit. Those provisions include obtaining an access agreement from the town of Gypsum, as the owner of the affected stretch of U.S. Highway 6. The access agreement will include acceleration and deceleration lanes at the pit entrance area.
Fedrizzi said Eagle Rocks Aggregate has already launched these talks with Gypsum officials and the company hopes to finalize its access permit this spring.
“We would like to be selling gravel, and it’s a hefty goal, no later than June of this year,” Fedrizzi concluded.
The graduates of Vail Mountain School’s class of 2019 will be off to far-flung destinations next fall, set to enter college in one of 16 different states or explore the world on a gap year. One grad is even attending college in Canada.