Volume 106, Number 1 - January 1, 2009
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Neighbors upset over gravel pits
Several commercial gravel pits near Boulder have caused a stir with local residents.
“We are not against somebody making a profit, we’re just trying to protect our homes,” said Sandra Goodwin, resident of over 20 years in the affected area.
There are three pits in the area near the intersection of East Fork Big Sandy County Road and Highway 353: a county/state pit and commercial pits owned by McMurry Ready Mix and Mark Jones.
“Right now [the two commercial pits] have a permit for a 10-acre exemption, that is to say they are staying under 10 acres,” County Planner Bart Myers said.
The McMurry pit has recently come under fire. Residents alerted the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) of possible violations, and have notified the Planning and Zoning office of possible conditional use permit violations.
“When they had the crusher here, they were operating it at 8 p.m. at night and it was loud and dirty,” Goodwin said.
Jennifer Frazier, local DEQ staff engineer, was asked to follow up on two reports.
“They did not come into our pit, but the DEQ is welcome at any time,” Ron Mc-Murry said. “We have a lot of trucks on site and work hard to keep our dust down.”
McMurry noted that it could be tough to tell where the dust was coming from on the road because of his pit’s close proximity to the government pit.
It will be up to the Planning and Zoning office to settle complaints about the hours of operation.
“We have not been operating our crushing and mining outside of daylight hours,” Mc-Murry said.
While his operations have been loading trucks before or after daylight, McMurry said that the conditional use permit was only concerned with the crushing and mining. Goodwin noted that some of the truck traffic concerns might be alleviated with an alternative route to the pits.
“If they chose the alternate route, they wouldn’t impact any of us on their haul route,” Goodwin said.
Before crushing had ceased with inclement weather, McMurry said the earliest his crusher was operating was at 7 a.m. The last day of crushing at his site was on Nov. 19.
“[Hours of operation] seems to be the biggest sticking point on most of these,” Myers said.
With about a dozen neighbors in the immediate area, it has been up for debate the placement of the pits. Pits are only allowed on agricultural zoning.
“The reason being, that they’re more rural and isolated,” Myers said. “The three we’re dealing with here are relatively isolated.”
According to GPS feeds, houses in the area can be as far away as four miles or as close as a “straight shot” one-mile from any of the pits.
Gravel pits are generally used for gravel roads, cement and blacktop.
“I think that gravel is a necessary evil for the development occurring in the county,” Myers said.
The county commission recently approved another five years for the Jones’ pit. At the meeting, residents including Goodwin, brought to light previous complaints they had with DEQ mandates and its conditional use permit.
“They were actually issued a violation by DEQ for not controlling dust,” Goodwin said.
The Jones pit is currently inactive.
The commission attempted to strike a compromise, amending the conditional use for operation hours — either 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. or daylight to dark, whichever is shorter.
Residents also took the time to talk about concerns with the McMurry pit — especially the fact that its lease comes from East Fork Livestock, part owned by Commissioner Joel Bousman.
“It’s his land, and he needs to tell these guys they need to follow the rules,” Goodwin said. “We feel [the commission] put profit before the real people here.”
However, Bousman is merely leasing the land, and the onus officially falls on Mc-Murry. For now, neighbors will wait as the DEQ and Planning and Zoning offices make rulings on any possible violations.
“We do believe that these commercial pits are an inappropriate use for this area,” Goodwin. “There were two dust complaints,” she said. “There was dust, it was a valid complaint. The day that I went out there, I did not go to the facility, so I just took pictures from the county road.”
Air and water complaints go directly to the DEQ in a working report, before eventually being ruled on. Frazier’s file had not yet been ruled on as of press time.
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