Riverland batch plant stirs up controversy among neighbors
Written by Alissa Johnson   
Wednesday, 14 November 2012
Expected a leach field and sewer system, not a batch plant

A concrete batching operation proposed for the southernmost lot of Riverland Industrial Park is creating a few ripples among neighbors. The operation would mix and make concrete on site. The Gunnison County Planning Commission held a public hearing on Friday, November 5 to consider the application for the operation, and enough questions were raised to delay a decision until county staff can gather more information.


News Generic


John Nichols is proposing a concrete batching operation that would include a silo and outdoor storage of trucks, heavy equipment, excavating equipment and general construction equipment. He clarified that a 32-foot concrete wall has already been poured for what is best explained as a mobile batch plant, where elevation differences on the parcel are key to loading trucks and mix concrete.
“We don’t actually have a batch plant; we have a volumetric concrete mixer which is a mobile batch plant. It’s a truck that carries all the materials and you park it 18 feet higher than the dump truck, and that way you can load the dump truck,” he said.
A 27-foot tall silo would hold cement powder, and according to Nichols, be largely invisible from Highway 135. “You’ll get a very short glimpse of the top portion of the silo as you drive up and down the highway,” he said.
But the silo will still be visible from property owned by Bill Lacy, who made it clear to the Planning Commission and Nichols that he is not happy about it. He pointed out that Nichols acquired the lot through a land exchange with John Rozman, and at the time both Rozman and Lacy believed the land would be used for a leach field and sewer system. Lacy said he would not have supported the land exchange had he realized its intended use would be a batching operation.
Rozman also indicated that Nichol’s new plans were a surprise. “He said that this would be used, because of the road there, for his leach field and sewer system. And I guess I should have put that down [in writing] that’s what the purpose would have been in giving him an easement to that piece of ground. That was my understanding, but we didn’t put that it was for a leach field and sewer system [in writing].”
Lacy and his attorney, Kendall Burgemeister, raised additional concerns about the proposal, including outdoor storage. Lacy said the berms being constructed between Riverland and the highway were not sufficient to block visibility of outdoor storage, and Burgemeister pointed out that outdoor storage on that lot was prohibited by the original Riverland Covenants approved in 1982. He questioned the authority of the Riverland Lot Owner’s Association to grant a variance.
“If you allow someone to put in a use that is contrary to those covenants simply by obtaining a variance from the lot owners’ association, without full review by the county, that looks a lot like a new permissible delegation to land use review…” Burgemeister said. “That outdoor storage is something that should at least have a full minor impact review.”
But while the Planning Commission agreed that it wanted more detail on the type of outdoor storage being proposed and the status of the berm, the board did not agree with Burgemeister’s assessment of the overall process.
Commission chairman Ramon Reed said, “This is a minor review. That’s the reason for this public hearing that we’re conducting right now. It is required as part of the minor review process… I’m certainly not in agreement with what you’re saying that we’ve followed some other process than we have done in the past or are required to do.”
Neal Starkebaum, county assistant director of community development, added that when the Land Use Resolution (LUR) was adopted in 2001, it addressed how to handle previously approved subdivisions and also gave the Planning Commission permission to act on behalf of the Board of the County Commissioners.
But Burgemeister pushed his point, saying, “Instead of review light, because we are doing something that is contrary to the covenants approved by the Board of County Commissioners back in 1982, there needs to be a full review process.”
“That’s noted,” said Reed, “as is your comment that the draft decision may be lacking in detail. Certainly we will take that up.” Starkebaum added to Reed’s point by reading language from the LUR that gave the Riverland lot owners’ association the authority to relax requirements so long as their decision was also approved by the county.
“Right, Gunnison County,” said Burgemeister.
“That’s the process we’re taking today,” Starkebaum said. “But based on the draft findings and the staff report, it doesn’t look like anyone was aware they were approving a variance.”
“I’m not sure that we were, to be quite honest,” said Reed.
“That’s why it’s a draft,” Starkebaum said.
Burgemeister seemed prepared to continue the argument, but Reed said, “Your comment is noted and we will consider it. We’re not going to end this public hearing and then take a vote. There’s going to be more detail and your input is noted.”
True to Reed’s word, the Planning Commission opted not to make a decision at the hearing, instead directing Starkebaum to get more information about outdoor storage and the berms intended to block visibility of the silo. They meet again on November 16.