OPINION: Gravel Pit Wars… Part One

Author’s note: I became curious about the proposed Holman/ACA Gravel Pit (named RB Pit) after the Salida Daily Post received submissions from opponents. I read the Major Impact Review packet on line, toured the neighborhood with Dr. Tom Sykes, toured the site with Frank Holman, read proponent and opponent letters submitted to the county, spoke to opponents and proponents, and spoke with Butala gravel pit owner Tom Eve. I’ve done my homework. Now I’m sharing.

The Chaffee County Planning and Zoning Department received an Application for Major Impact Review Land Use Change Permit on July 15, 2016 from ACA Products, Inc. The land use change requested is from grazing (zoned rural) to surface mining – a 27.8 acre gravel pit/crushing operation. Paul Moltz is owner and CEO of ACA Products.

According to the County, commercial mining is permitted in a rural zone with a Major Impact Review.

The location for this proposed gravel pit is at the end of County Road 140: Frank and Sherry Holman’s ranch at 14110 CR 140, and Elizabeth Holman’s adjacent ranch at 14100 CR 140. Elizabeth is Frank’s mother. A portion of Ms. Holman’s property borders Highway 50.  State Highway 50 is .4 miles from the proposed gravel pit.

Here’s a Google Earth view of where the proposed gravel pit, outlined in black, would be located:

At the time the RB pit application was submitted, Mr. Holman was a Chaffee County commissioner. His second term ended in January, 2017. This same property was the subject of an application for a 110 Limited Impact sand and gravel pit (10 acres) in 2010. That application was withdrawn by the applicant, ACA Products, after a recommendation for approval with conditions by the Planning Commission. Mr. Holman was serving as a county commissioner at that time as well.

Mr. Holman and Mr. Moltz have already made improvements in preparation for the proposed gravel pit, including a rebuilt road to the proposed RB gravel pit site. I have to admit that since the Major Impact Review Land Use Change Permit has not been approved, it makes me somewhat uncomfortable that they are already investing in the gravel pit operation.

On April 19, Mr. Holman, at my request, graciously took me on a tour of the proposed RB gravel site. We traveled down the rebuilt road that parallels Granite Parkway (Weldon Creek), until it turns south to the proposed gravel pit site. Here are photos I took from the site.

The area where the proposed RB gravel pit will start, looking uphill where it will progress.

Southwest view from proposed RB gravel pit.

Southeast view from proposed RB gravel pit.

View from highest portion of proposed RB gravel pit. The Hemmert residence is located above the gravel pit. There is a gravel pit on the Hemmert property, about 50 feet in front of the house.

As you can see, the site is remote from most residences and residents’ views. It appears to me that Mary Boardman’s residence will have a distant view of the mining operation. I believe that even if a berm is constructed, it cannot conceal the mining as it progresses up the hill towards the Hemmert property.

Here’s a graphic of the adjoining properties to the proposed RB gravel pit:

The Hemmert property, obviously, is very close to the the prospective pit, but they don’t object. They already have a pit in their front yard.

The property identified as Devonna Faith’s residence, also close to the proposed pit, sold in April 2017 for $264,500. Ms. Faith had purchased the property for $291,900 in March 2009, and sold it because her child’s health issues would have been exacerbated by living next to a gravel pit. She sold her property at a loss in what arguably is an up market since 2009.

Thomas Smith is another adjoining property owner uphill from the proposed gravel pit. He is the developer of the upscale Weldon Creek gated community. I suspect Mr. Smith is not as forgiving of the proposed pit as are the Hemmerts… More on Mr. Smith and Weldon Creek later.

Read Part Two…

Cynda Green

Cynda Green is an investigative reporter who enjoys writing about various and sundry topics, least of which is politics. But someone has to do it. Contact: cyndagreen@gmail.com