The red sign notifying the public about landowner Larry Lyster's plans to have a gravel pit on his property faces out toward Highway 394. Residents close by agreed to the mine at the Moffat County Commission meeting Tuesday. Lyster explained he planned to build a residential subdivision after three to four years.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

The red sign notifying the public about landowner Larry Lyster's plans to have a gravel pit on his property faces out toward Highway 394. Residents close by agreed to the mine at the Moffat County Commission meeting Tuesday. Lyster explained he planned to build a residential subdivision after three to four years.

Neighbors reach across mine's divide

Residents agree to gravel mine near homes

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— Whatever nervousness Larry Lyster had going into a public meeting with the Moffat County Commission on Tuesday, he left smiling.

Lyster owns about 360 acres east of the Moffat County Regional Airport, on the south side of Highway 394.

He planned to have Steve Baker, of 3-B Enterprises, develop a gravel mine on 60 acres there, at least until residents living nearby appeared at the Commission's meeting March 11 to protest approving the mine's conditional use permit.

"I don't think there's anybody in this room here that would say, 'I would like to live across the street from a gravel pit,'" Rick Domson said. "It's about 500 yards from my front door. I'm concerned it will basically make my home un-sellable on the market."

At that meeting, the Commission tabled any approval until concerns could be properly addressed.

Fears were cast away and anger subsided Tuesday when Lyster and Baker explained their long-term plans.

"The intent is, we're only going to have the gravel pit about three years then reclaim it and build houses around the ponds," Lyster said.

The gravel pit operation would finance the residential subdivision, Baker added.

Before the Commission approved a conditional use permit, though, members wanted stipulations assuring other landowners they could feel secure about their property.

Commissioner Tom Mathers said he wanted a dirt burm - a raised mound - to run along the highway with trees on top to muffle sound coming from the gravel mine.

"I thought two things," Mathers said. "One, it would fix (Domson's) problem, and two, it would make these homes you're going to be selling more attractive."

The mine's hours of operation also concerned Commissioner Saed Tayyara, who said he wanted to make sure Domson and other neighbors get "a little relaxation time."

Lyster and Baker agreed to take both issues under consideration.

Domson said he didn't want noise concerns to put the gravel mine out of business, and agreed that he wouldn't oppose workers there 12 hours a day.

"I know what the building season is around here, and I realize they have to get things done," Domson said.

The Commission voted to table approving the mine's conditional use permit until its next meeting March 25 so that Lyster and Baker can work out specifics for the project, including the size of the burm and the number of years they would like the conditional use permit to last.

Baker said he wouldn't want to close the mine if it's in the middle of a contract and the Commission offered a condition for the mine to not exceed four years.

Domson said he was much happier with Lyster and Baker's proposal now compared to last week.

"Four years, I can turn my head and deal with," Domson said.

New planning regulations?

Cleve Preece, who owns land on Highway 394 about a mile from Lyster and Baker's proposed mine site, said it might be time for the county to consider new planning and building codes.

Growth likely will put residences and commercial operations close together more and more in the future, he said.

"What it boils down to, maybe you as a Commission need to look at how these things are done," Preece said, suggesting the Commission find ways to ensure development doesn't make Craig unattractive to visitors.

"As people come into our community, they don't want to see big holes in the ground," Preece said. "I've lived here all my life, and this community is growing. Let's make it into something really nice."

Tayyara said he was not proud of looking at increasing regulations, but it might be necessary.

"The lack of policies or regulations, sooner or later somebody is going to have to address it," he said.

"It's time for us to take a step."

Gray would have agreed a week ago, he said, but talking through the gravel mine situation convinced him the county can use conditional use permits to make any necessary conditions, such as neighbor considerations.

Regulations don't fit all circumstances, Gray said, and adding a lot could hurt development. That would be worse for the county, he said, than having different Commissions approach conditional use permits with varying philosophies.

"I'd rather risk the subjectivity than have the prescriptive, one-size-fits-all regulation," Gray said.

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