Attending the county commissioners’ Oct. 6 meeting was a discouraging, depressing experience. The primary topic was whether to allow an extractive operation (gravel pit) on the Animas River near County Roads 213 and 214.
The "yes" votes of commissioners Kellie Hotter and Joelle Riddle overrode Commissioner Wally White’s "no" vote.
In approving this project, Hotter and Riddle effectively removed county residents’ protection provided by the Land Use Code that prevents commercial or industrial activity from intruding into rural residential neighborhoods.
Their decision affirmed that a gravel pit 500 feet from five homes is a "compatible use."
Our Land Use Code states that before a project can be approved, the applicant must show a need for such activity, it must be compatible with the area and not change the neighborhood and noxious impacts – noise, dust, unsightly views – must be mitigated.
Need? We already have 43 gravel pits.
If a gravel pit 500 feet from five homes is deemed "compatible use," what in the world would be "incompatible use"? This precedent has significant ramifications for all rural neighborhoods.
When concerned residents asked how the county enforces its mitigation requirements, definitive answers were not forthcoming.
An engineer testified that the extreme noise generated by the pit could not be mitigated for homes just across the river and above the extractive site.
This and other thoughtful, informed testimony against the project was ignored.
But of most concern was that Hotter and Riddle appeared to already have made up their minds to vote "yes" before public testimony, which ran about 4-to-1 against the project. Hotter’s vote was expected; her record shows she often will vote for an individual’s property rights, even to the detriment of the people.
Riddle said she wanted a solution that was best for the people of the county. Then she voted against them. She seemed to think a commercial gravel pit with conditions was preferable to no commercial pit.
But her comments and questions indicated how she would vote.
And we are supposed to have a representative government? What a joke. And how depressing.
Diane Higgins, Durango