Delta County Planning Commission moves gravel pit forward

JOANN KALENAK/DCCR SENIOR BLOGGER — Despite comments from three residents who told Planning Commissioners that they had not received prior notice, Commissioners voted 8-to-1 to recommend approval of a sand and gravel mining pit adjacent to Confluence Park. Yesterday evening, Jared Graff and engineering representative Ben Langenfeld, presented a comprehensive application to Delta County PC members to develop 256 acres of farmland into a sand and gravel pit. The site borders the lake at Confluence Park in Delta at the fork of the Gunnison and Uncompahgre Rivers.
The descending vote was cast by Planning Commissioner Tom Kay who cited the lack of communication between the applicant and his neighbors, and the failure on the part of the county to ensure notice to all residents within 1,000 feet of the property boundary of the proposed development. Several other PC members posed questions to Delta County planning staff voicing concerns about the notice failure, which is required by the county’s specific development rules.
Elyse Casselberry, head of Delta County’s planning department, told PC members that she wouldn’t know what went wrong with the notice mailing until she and staff have a chance to review the list generated for the application. “The process is automated…we need time to review it,” said Casselberry.
Planning Commissioner Steve Schrock reminded fellow commissioners that this development would remove more than 200 acres from farmland and into mining, an activity counter to the Planning Commission’s newly adopted Master Plan that emphasis agricultural use.
Graff and Langenfeld told PC members that no blasting would occur at the site and hours of operation would be limited to daylight. “This is a wet operation,” said Langenfeld meaning that the digging will occur at and below groundwater level.
An average of twenty trucks per day are expected and crushing operations will be maintained below grade once a pit is dug making natural walls in hopes of mitigating both visual and sound impacts. Along with crushing operations, two mobile plants will process asphalt and concrete at the site.
In further attempts to block visual impacts to Confluence Park, Graff will invest in vegetation along the riverbank that divides his property and the lake at Confluence Park. “I want to be good neighbors…and I’m doing everything possible,” said Graff who currently lives at the site and plans to remain there throughout the expected 50-year lifespan of the mining operation.
A City of Delta main sewage line, located on the proposed site, was also of deep concern to Planning Commissioners. A break in that line would cause a major health disaster given its size and close proximity to the river. “In 1984, that line did break,” said Planning Commissioner Steve Schrock.
Betsy Suerth, Public Works and Community Development Director for the City of Delta presented several concerns to PC members and asked for a detailed traffic study as well as a hydrology study on possible impacts to the lake at Confluence Park. “We want to insure that water levels at the lake don’t drop” as a result of digging below grade to ground water level, said Suerth. The motion that was carried by the Planning Commission’s vote included working with the City of Delta to alleviate many of their concerns. Casselberry further explained that Delta County would work with the City to develop an Intergovernmental Agreement or IGA.
Several PC members asked about the market for the type of products Graff plans to produce given the presence of several other gravel operations in the county. “I decided to get into the business because I saw a monopoly,” said Graff referring to United Gravel who supplies much of the aggregate-related building material in Delta County.
“I believe competition will lower prices,” said Planning Commissioner Lucida Stanley, however, not all PC members agreed.
The families of three of Graff’s neighbors, who heard about the Planning Commission meeting via social media, told commission members about their concerns that the proposed development would impact their property values, security and safety, and create other lifestyle changes. “I live on Graff Road,” said one resident. “We get pushed off the road daily by trucks (from Graff’s compost operation) who do not do the speed limit.”
In 2004, another pit application was proposed in the Confluence Park area. Then Commissioners denied that development for compatibility reasons.
During the three-hour review of Graff’s application, Planning Commissioners discussed many of the resident’s concerns, however, the word “compatibility” was never used in their deliberations.
The application is set to go before the Delta County Commissioners, who have final approval, on May 7.
STORY UPDATE: PLANNING COMMISSION’S vote to approve a gravel pit adjacent to Confluence Park has been nullified due to a substantial public notification compliance error. Date and time for a new hearing to be determined.