Safety questions rocked gravel plan

Skepticism is always in order when NIMBYism rears its head. No one wants a gas well, garbage dump or gravel pit in his backyard. But we need all of those things in locations that are appropriate.

However, just because residents of a certain neighborhood want to protect their home turf, it doesn’t mean their concerns aren’t valid. And the safety issues raised by residents of one Orchard Mesa neighborhood certainly appear to fit in the “valid” category. That’s why the Grand Junction Planning Commission rejected the proposed 29 3/4 Road gravel pit Tuesday by a 4-2 margin.

Approximately 50 people appeared at the Planning Commission meeting, and none testified in support of the proposed pit, which is owned by a group called the Schooley-Weaver Partnership. Opponents’ primary concern was safety on the narrow, two-lane road which has very small shoulders.

The gravel plan envisions up to 150 trucks a day making round trips on 29 3/4 Road to access the pit. Residents of the area say the truck traffic is a threat to children who regularly use the street, walking to a school bus stop, waiting for buses and other activities. The school-bus waiting area is itself small and close to the edge of the road, neighbors said. Especially in winter, children have little place to wait for buses off of the road.

Placing large numbers of heavy trucks on a small street through a primarily residential area where children are frequently present is worrisome, indeed. It’s not surprising that the majority of the Planning Commission voted to reject a conditional use permit for the gravel pit based on the safety issue.

Residents have also argued that taking gravel from the area of the proposed pit will remove most of knoll that acts as a buffer between their neighborhood and the Mesa County landfill. But that’s a harder sale to make. City planning rules don’t require that a valuable resource on private property must be left in place to serve as a visual buffer between two other types of development.

Safety issues, however, must be a consideration in city development decisions, as they were this week.

The owners of the proposed gravel pit have the right to appeal that decision to the Grand Junction City Council. But, if they do so, the council should either require a different route for the gravel trucks or substantial improvements to the 29 3/4 Road corridor to keep pedestrians and trucks separated.


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