Home community Residents struggle with county being too Ögravel-pit-friendly»

Residents struggle with county being too Ögravel-pit-friendly»

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In Morgan County, where there are at least a dozen gravel pits, it is difficult to get five miles away from mining activity. We are a gravel-pit-friendly county, or we have been in the past, said Bill Cobabe, Morgan County Planning and Development Department director. And because gravel pits are a permitted land use in several zones of the county, as long as company owners mitigate impacts, that will probably continue for the forseeable future. Much to the chagrin of residents who built or bought homes next to what was then an inactive pit, there is little they can do to stop mining activities from starting up again. However, they can ask for mitigating controls that will help foster neighborly feelings among pit owners and nearby residents. Thats what many near the Staker Parsons Warner pit near Trappers Loop are discovering. A packed crowd showed up to the Morgan County Planning Commission meeting Oct. 22 to voice their concerns. A 10-year renewal of the pits conditional use permit was tabled when the meeting stretched on until 10 p.m. But neighbors are ready to listen in when the planning commission meets again Nov. 12. They are hoping the county places mitigating controls on nuisances such as noise, hours of operation, dust, traffic impact, water use and air pollution. If they can display that they can mitigate all nuisances, they shall be granted a permit, Cobabe said. We dont have a lot of leeway. The county has to say Öyes. The code is very specific. We have to be careful what we require an applicant to do. If it is not in the code, we cant require it, although there is still room for interpretation. The Staker Parsons pit near Trappers Loop was originally approved in 1997 and given a 13-year time frame for operations. They stopped operations in 2008, a few years before expiration of their permit, before selling about 25 acres on the easternmost portion to Rollins Ranch for eventual development. That portion is pretty well mined out, Cobabe said. Of the pits original 51 acres, about 70 percent of it has been mined out. But according to Staker Parsons representatives, 1 million tons of rock remain that can still be pulled out, most in the berm where the old Paul Warner house sits. Despite the remaining rock, the land as a whole is a nonproductive asset for Staker Parsons, Cobabe said. It is virtually unmarketable now, he said. They have to get the remaining material out so they can develop it. They want to get done as quickly as possible. Although Staker Parsons is seeking a 10-year permit, representatives estimate it will only take about three more years to extract the remaining material out of the mine. But that could be extended if the county puts time-of-day and days-of-week controls on them. Cobabe said the planning commission is considering controls of 10-hour days, five days a week and 15 trucks per hour. Staker had originally asked for 12-hour days six days a week. While important concerns, decreasing property values and high impact on roadways are secondary issues in the gravel pit discussion, Cobabe said, because the county has no legal control over them. These issues are familiar to those living in Peterson, where the Wilkinson hot mix asphalt plant recently changed ownership to Geneva Rock. When ownership changed, so did other things such as hours of operation and the amount of dust flying in the air. Resident Darlene Musselman said she has called the Environmental Protection Agency with her pollution concerns coming from the Geneva plant. The EPA is coming down on the Wasatch Front because of pollution, said her husband, Ron Musselman. Morgan doesnt have restrictions like they do, so the gravel pit companies are moving up the canyon. That tells me they are trying to duck what the EPA is doing. Morgan is being stuck up the nose with a stick, Darlene said. Im not saying we want to put them out of business. But how many gravel pits do we need that dont give back to the county? Darlene said that because sales tax is calculated on a point-of-sale basis, and rocks pulled out of Morgan are actually being sold on the Wasatch Front, Morgan County sees no sales tax revenue from gravel pits. The pits do, however, contribute property tax as calculated by state-assessed values sent to county assessors. In 1986, Morgan County imposed conditions that all gravel pits in the county have a business office within county borders where the sale of gravel products occurr and sales taxes are paid; contribute to the county road fund based on the amount of gravel products carried on public roads; be subject to annual review of permits; restore excavation areas; provide flagmen at the entry onto county roads when the number of trucks exceed four per hour; submit copies of state air and water quality permits; have copies of approved dust and noise control plans for public view; operate between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.; maintain stable and safe conditions of slopes; protect excavation areas from erosion; prevent stock piles from blowing dust; and restore landscaping as soon as possible after excavation. Morgan County Council Chairman Logan Wilde said some of these conditions have been challenged since 1986 and not all have remained in place. In 1998, owners of the Wilkinson gravel pit in Enterprise sought a 10-year permit for unrestricted operation 16 hours per day, six days a week, and as early as 5 a.m. County planning commissioners said they would rather see pit operation from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. While the county may be able to put conditions on gravel pit permits, the Musselmans say after that, there is little enforcement. The county puts restrictions on these guys, then nobody is watching them. Nobody is out there holding them accountable, Ron said. The companies know that, and that is why they move to Morgan. Then we are the ones left who put up with their mess. Darlene suggested community members actively report back to county leaders when they see a violation of a gravel companys permit. The council cant be everywhere, Darlene said. We need to help everyone in Morgan keep eyes on the ground to oversee things.

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