In two weeks, Crawford residents will know whether they’ll have a new 35-acre gravel pit in their community. The Delta County Commissioners took the issue under advisement after yesterday’s crowded and heated public hearing on the controversial proposal.
About 75 people packed into a courthouse hearing room on Monday. About a third of them spoke against Larry and Matt Jensen’s proposed gravel pit next to Crawford’s Grandview Subdivision, less than a mile from town limits. The Jensens say the gravel pit will support their ranching operation and provide a needed commodity in the county. But the parade of speakers, some who even brought audio and visual aids, expressed a variety of concerns about the gravel pit including noise, dust, health concerns, increased traffic, water, and lower property values.
"I'm just down the hill from this proposed strip mine. The dust produced by a gravel strip mine contains crystalline silica, a known cancer-causing agent called the dust of death," said John Martindale. "Because of this along, and the proximity of homes to the proposed strip mine, this industrial usage is incompatible with existing use in the area."
Real estate agent John Went said, "It's not just the values of the property for the owners, but it makes it unable for someone who wanted to obtain a property in Crawford in general area of gravel pit because of the lack of actual zoning and no segmentation of where industrial area starts and ends."
Many called on the commissioners to follow the county’s own master plan. Larry Ribnick, from the Grandview Homeowners Association, quoted from the document.
"The right to develop and improve private property does not constitute the right to adversely impact the property or property value of neighboring landowners. Furthermore, compatibility should be given priority consideration. In cases where there is incompatibility between an existing and a proposed land use, the property right of the existing use should be given priority," said Ribnick.
The county has already been involved in one recent lawsuit over its approval of two hen house operations. Robin Smith also expressed the commonly-held view that the county is headed for legal problems because of its lack of zoning.
"Approval of this application will probably result in litigation. Please, do not waste our tax dollars defending a lawsuit, similar to the poultry operations, that the county will likely lose," said Smith.
After opponents had their say, Larry Jensen responded, saying he’s been a good neighbor thus far.
"We’re here for the longterm. You haven’t given us a chance. You’ve seen our operation over 20 years and you’ve seen how we’re good stewards of the land. I think you’re taking a shallow, short view of what’s happening here…and I think all your comments are somewhat to a level of hysteria that I don’t think is warranted. Every one of your houses was built with gravel resources, every one of you have a driveway, a concrete foundation."
There are already 14 gravel pits in Delta County, but most are far from residences. The commissioners are scheduled to rule on the gravel pit at their next meeting on December 17.