A large gravel pit planned for Moonlight Mesa in Montrose County, on land nine miles south of the City of Montrose, had neighbors up in arms in 2013.
Rocky Mountain Aggregate and Construction first proposed in March to build and operate the Uncompahgre Gravel Pit on 247.76 acres of land atop agricultural lands that would be accessed by T Road, saying it could produce 104,000 tons of gravel a year, over the next 105 years.
Janice Wheeler, one of five residents living on the small stretch of T Road that would have been affected, expressed concerns about such a large operation in a mostly agricultural area.
“Eleven million tons of gravel is a heck of a lot of gravel,” Wheeler said. “This is a giant. There is the potential for 130 loads a day. That means 260 semi trucks entering and exiting onto this road. Those are big numbers. I don’t think it belongs here. It affects too many people negatively for one person’s gain.”
Following a lengthy review process by the Montrose County Planning Commission, ending with its recommended approval with stipulations, the County Commissioners reviewed the project in two very lengthy public hearings in which supporters and opponents faced off.
In addition to impacts and benefits to residents, the commissioners had to consider the possible listing of the Gunnison sage-grouse as an endangered species, because the proposed site of the gravel pit is within the 1.7 million acres of land proposed for designation as critical habitat, if the species is listed.
In early October, with Commissioner Ron Henderson absent after being hospitalized for bypass surgery, commissioners Gary Ellis and David White denied the Rocky Mountain Aggregate’s special use permit application for the gravel pit, shocking both opponents and supporters of the project.
“There are a number of issues I am concerned about,” Ellis said, in making the motion to deny the special use application. “There are issues with its haul road, the length of time the asphalt plant can operate and the size of the pit. Right now, based on incompatibility issues, I am going to make a motion to deny the application, but also state that there is a place for you to reapply and address those issues.”
White seconded Ellis’s motion.
“I can’t, in good conscience, say yes to this,” White said. “The asphalt plant, the haul road and the size of the operation – these are my main concerns. I would welcome you to investigate other alternatives.”
Zane Luttrell, co-owner of Rocky Mountain Aggregate, said after the vote that he intends to work toward making the gravel pit a reality, and will modify existing plans to do so.