City Council revokes permit for gravel pit

Is the road safe for pedestrians with truck traffic? What about bus stops for children? And, what about water?

Residents of an Orchard Mesa neighborhood have been asking those questions for the past 18 months about a proposal for a gravel mining operation near their homes. On Monday, they heard the same questions come from the mouths of Grand Junction City Council members.

By a 6-1 vote Monday night, the City Council shot down a proposal by Schooley-Weaver Partnership, bringing what seemed like an irresolvable matter to a close. Residents of the neighborhood off 29 3/4 Road, who had launched a campaign against the gravel operation and appeared for countless civic meetings, became giddy when they sensed council members might vote to revoke the conditional use permit.

“To me, the road is so narrow that they have no choice but to dive off the road,” Council member Tom Ken- yon said of pedestrians who would have mingled with an estimated 300 gravel trucks a day on the mostly shoulderless road.

“Thank you, thank you,” one audience member chanted quietly.

“Amen,” said another under her breath.

Over the past year, the issue ping-ponged from the Grand Junction Planning Commission — which first denied and then approved the proposal — and wound through two appeals to the City Council.

During the first appeal — pressed by the applicant— council members sent the issue back to planning commissioners. On Monday night, during the second appeal — this one pushed by opponents of the gravel operation — City Council members reversed planning commissioners’ decision. Council member Bruce Hill cast the dissenting vote.

Robert Jones II, of Vortex Engineering, who is representing the applicant, appeared stunned after the meeting. Schooley-Weaver Partnership has the option to file a lawsuit or start over and submit a new proposal to the city.

“Probably wouldn’t say at this point,” Jones said.

Council members initially sent the issue back to planning commissioners because they questioned how well they considered the proposal’s safety concerns for residents. Although they believe the safety issue was better handled the second time, some council members said they didn’t agree with the planning commission’s approval of the project.

“I’m more concerned about the health and welfare of the community than the business aspect,” council member Sam Susuras said.

At one point during the lengthy process, the applicant had offered to construct a walking path and put up a fence, but those ideas were dismissed by planning commissioners. The plan’s latest version included a school bus turnaround and limited hours of operation to accommodate school children.

Carrol Zehner, a resident of the area who formed the group COIN, Concerns of Impacted Neighborhoods, said she’s “not quite ready to let it die.”

Attorney bills for the effort still must be paid, and if a proposal resurfaces, the group will be ready, she said.

For now, “It’s a very merry Christmas,” Zehner said. “You have all the stories on TV about Christmas. It couldn’t have happened in a better month.”

In other matters:

City Council members unanimously voted to extend the beginning of a ban on medical marijuana centers until July 1. The ban was slated to go into effect Jan. 1. City Council members on Wednesday are expected to offer city staff direction on whether they will repeal an ordinance against the centers or request the issue go to voters and be placed on the April ballot.


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