by Libby James
After three hours of debate and presentations at the Larimer County Courthouse on June 18, the Larimer County Commissioners approved an alternate access route for Timberline Resources, a mining operation already approved but as yet without a contractor to operate the mine.
The LaPorte Area Planning Advisory Commission (LAPAC) and the Larimer County Planning Commission had voted to deny the request to use Overland Trail for a variety of reasons including safety due to lack of an adequate turn lane, congestion, noise, and air quality. Residents attended the hearing in force and were surprised and disappointed at the outcome of the vote.
That was Monday night.
The following night, June 19, was another long one for a weary but energized contingent of La Porte residents who showed up at Canyon West room in the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins. They were present to mount a concerted attempt to convince LAPAC to vote for denial of use by special review request from Loveland Ready Mix to establish a mining, rock crushing and concrete batch operation on 123 acres of land close to the center of LaPorte.
The LaPorters had done their homework and were well armed with facts and figures. They reported 3,000 signatures and 500 letters in opposition of the project and a long list of reasons why culminating in the fact that none of them believe that the core of their small, peaceful village is an appropriate site for a gravel mine and a concrete-producing operation.
The protesters ranged from relative newcomers to people who had lived in the area for more that four decades and an articulate 13-year-old young woman. They spoke in unison about their opposition to the project, known as the Knox Gravel Pit, recalling the Stegner mine as an example of how things can go wrong and promises made are not kept. They had evidence to show the negative effects on their lifestyle, property values, air and water quality, ground water level, noise level, wildlife, health and peace of mind.
They worked hard to persuade LAPAC that the project did not fit within the vision and goals of their advisory commission: to retain the current rural, non-commercial character of LaPorte.
Representatives of Loveland Ready Mix offered a detailed presentation explaining that they are a local, family-owned business with successful operations in Boulder, Loveland and Johnstown, that is responsive to the communities in which they operate. They described their efforts to mitigate negative effects of their proposed operation by mining in small, five-acre phases, placing the batch operation in a remote corner of the site, limiting hours of operation and truck traffic, and tending to ground water and air quality concerns. They promised completion of mining in ten years and returning the land to open space and possible residential development. They promised to be open to hearing comments and complaints at all times.
Following the LRM presentation, citizens who had signed up ahead of time were allowed two minutes each to comment. It was difficult for some speakers to limit their words which often zeroed in on specifics but always concluded with what they saw as the obvious fact that the Knox Gravel Pit would not be welcome in their community.
Then it was time for the members of LAPAC to discuss among themselves and in front of the assembled audience, what they had heard and how they responded to what they had learned. They expressed appreciation for LRM’s presentation and efforts to compromise and recognized them as an “honest company.”
Among themselves they spoke about perhaps approving the special review application but with conditions. Then they considered denying the application and seeking an opportunity for one of them to speak before the planning commission and county commissioners. When it came time to vote, they chose to let the planning commission and county commissioners know that they were denying the Knox Gravel Pit application for use by special review.
It was after 10 p.m. The protesting LaPorte residents headed for home, encouraged, hopeful and oblivious as the sky opened up and rain began to fall.