Boulder County Board of Adjustment Shoots Down Appeal to Invalidate Gravel Mine Permit
Despite only two of the five-member Boulder County Board of Adjustment ultimately siding with a mining company over its permit, the board shot down an appeal by area residents to rescind the permit.
The board on Wednesday upheld an earlier decision by the county land use director that the permit held by Marietta Martin Material to mine gravel on a nearly 900-acre plot near Hygeine remains valid, in spite of no actual mining on the site for nearly 20 years.
A four-person majority was required to overturn the April ruling by Land Use Director Dale Case, so the decision will stand. Board members James Greer and Scott Rudge found that the permit remains valid.
A nonprofit group, Save our St. Vrain Valley, launched the appeal, and an attorney for the group argued Wednesday that because the company has not done any actual mining work at the site, the permit should be considered invalid.
Conversely, an attorney for Marietta Martin argued that the company has continued to conduct remediation work at the site, including seeding and restoring vegetation and controlling the prairie dog population.
Board member Eric Moutz, who voted to overturn Case’s decision, said he didn’t have any sympathy for the company because it “has known all along that there was an issue with this permit.”
“They watered some grass, they shot some prairie dogs and they cut down some Russian olive trees,” Moutz said. ” ... This mine is abandoned. There has been a lapse and the permit is no longer valid.”
Board member Janell Flaig and board chairwoman Kari Stoltzfus joined Moutz in voting to overturn.
Taking the opposite view, Greer said he had labored through 1,200 pages of documents and found that the company had done the work need to keep the permit valid, even if it wasn’t mining work.
“It doesn’t have to be moving rocks and putting them on trucks,” Greer said. “Marietta Martin has a vested right in this property. We can’t use our feeling to take a way a vested property right.
“Our decision doesn’t have anything to do with whether Marietta Martin is going to be a good husband of the property.”
Emotions were running high during the four-and-a-half hour meeting. Nearly two dozen people, most of whom live near the gravel mine, spoke out against the mine reopening. Several people said they had not seen any mining operations in more than five years — the amount of time that has to lapse to invalidate a permit.
Others said that the landscape was wildly altered by the 2013 floods and a nearby mine wouldn’t be safe. Some told the board that a mining operation will bring unwanted traffic to the area and disturb wildlife, and more than once, Stoltzfus had to ask the audience to pipe down.
Selwyn Goldstein, of Longmont, said his house is near Golden Ponds and backs up to the rail road spur that would conceivably be used to ferry gravel from the mine should it reopen.
He said he wouldn’t appreciate it.
“Boulder County is a great place,” Goldstein said. “People love it because of our trails and how we respect our environment. We don’t open mines. We close mines.”
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