Gravel company’s plans pit it against Orchard Mesa neighborhood

JOHN KELCHNER, right, watches his four children and neighborhood visitors play at the dead end of 29 3/4 Road. The hillside to the left is under review to be taken down 100 feet for gravel. Neighbors in the area are upset because the permit under consideration by the city of Grand Junction allows 300 round trips per day for trucks using the narrow road.



John Kelchner thought it was a twisted joke when he learned a gravel pit is proposed for the vacant land across the street from his Orchard Mesa home.

Kelchner’s four children and plenty of neighborhood kids play on the road in front of the home, shooting hoops and racing their bicycles up and down the dead-end street. The thought of up to 150 dump trucks, or 300 round trips a day hauling gravel through the residential area, which does not have curbs and sidewalks, is too much for him to bear.

“Honestly, kids’ lives are at stake,” Kelchner said last week in the front yard of his home at 105 29 3/4 Road. “All it takes is one kid not paying attention with a truck roaring around the corner.”

Directly in front of his home, not more than a couple hundred feet away, a gravel mining operation is proposed on a hill that nearly backs up to the Mesa County Landfill, near the Old Spanish Trail. The proposal for local company Schooley-Weaver Partnership to operate a gravel mining operation there goes before the Grand Junction City Planning Commission during a Tuesday meeting.

As the proposal stands, gravel mining operations could be from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The company would remove the top of the hill on the 16-acre site.

The company’s engineering firm, Vortex Engineering, said 150 trucks a day is the most that would be on the road.

If approved, the conditional-use permit would be good for five years and could be renewed for two more years. Robert Jones II, who heads Vortex Engineering, previously told The Daily Sentinel the operation probably would last three years.

Jones was out of state and could not be reached for comment Friday.

Concerns about the project are being raised by more than disgruntled neighbors.

The proposed access road,  29 3/4 Road, which is maintained by the county, was not allowed as an access route in 1994 by another gravel pit operator located directly to the south. That company built a private access road.

Since then, the city has annexed some of the area, and the road is owned jointly by the city and county.

In a May 11 letter, county planning officials drafted a letter to city planners citing concerns about road maintenance and the outcry from local residents.

Grand Junction senior planner Brian Ruche said the proposal now includes that the gravel pit operator is responsible for making road repairs.

According to city code, a gravel pit is an accepted use in the area that is zoned rural-residential.

A mining operation need only be set back 125 feet from the closest home, according to city code. The proposal calls for a 200-foot setback.

Neighbors also worry about dust and trash blowing over from the landfill when the hill is removed.

Steve and Thelma McElhiney have lived in a well-kept, ranch-style home a stone’s throw from the proposed site. If approved, the view directly out their living-room window would be of the gravel pit.

Steve McElhiney, who has driven trucks for 34 years, including some gravel hauling, said he has never known a pit to be located so close to homes. And he said he doubts what he has been told about an existing need for another gravel pit in the county, especially with pits scattered around Mesa County.

“I work for GJ Pipe, and we have more gravel than you can shake a stick at,” he said. “They can’t tell me there’s a shortage of gravel across this county.”


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