By Libby James
It is difficult, if not impossible, to find a resident of the LaPorte area who is prepared to welcome the gravel and concrete batch operation Loveland Ready-Mix proposes to open in their community. If it is approved by the Larimer County Commissioners, the operation will occupy 123 acres of land owned by LRM on Larimer on County Road 54G, a half mile west of Taft Hill Road, across the street from the Plantorium nursery and adjacent to Kintzley Plaza.
A group of 275 unhappy area residents expressed their objections to the project at a meeting on March 7 when LRM co-owner Stephanie Fancher-English made a presentation about the project and then fielded questions and comments.
LaPorte area residents, who number about 1,500, have a long-standing reputation as strong advocates for preserving and protecting the rural nature of their community. A group of them have established a steering committee, website and Facebook page to raise awareness of the gravel mining issue. In mid-July they staged a “No LaPorte Gravel” event featuring local acoustic band “Seers” at Swing Station in LaPorte, to support the cause. More than 200 people attended and donated $1200. In addition, the group earned $800 through the sale of “No Gravel” t-shirts. Funds will benefit efforts to raise awareness of the issue and local efforts to stop construction of LRM’s fourth dispatch plant in Northern Colorado.
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In July, Ruth Wallick and Jayme Tilley, two LaPorte residents, spent a morning touring Loveland Ready Mix plants in Johnstown and Loveland and reclamation areas created by the company following mining operations. Their goal was to observe mining and reclamation operations first hand.
Loveland Ready Mix is a family owned operation that makes every effort to mitigate the effects of their mining operations on nearby dwellings and businesses. “We have to go where the gravel is,” co-owner Fancher-English explained. “We mine one small area (about 10 acres) at a time and when mining is complete we begin reclamation right away.”
Of more than 160 letters received by Larimer County regarding the project, only two wrote in favor. Signatures from 2,225 people have been collected on a petition opposing the mining operation. LaPorte resident Patty McElwaine warns people that if they wish to receive the county’s updates on the proposed mining operation, they must submit their post office box number to the County Assessor’s office. A street address is not sufficient.
LRM is currently working on modifications to their original application for a public hearing, some of them resulting from objections presented at the March meeting. The revised application will be submitted to Larimer County Planner Rob Helmick by August 14. The company is seeking a public hearing in their quest for approval for use by special review.
The parcels of land that will be used for the mining and concrete operation are currently zoned “open.” Helmick will review LRM’s application to make sure the application meets special review criteria before making a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners charged with rendering a final decision.
Area residents object to the gravel mining operation for several reasons. They assert that the project is “incompatible with the community” and they are concerned about increased truck traffic, proposed hours of operation, noise, light and air pollution, and a potential decrease in property values. They disagree with LRM’s assertion that the project meets the criteria for compatibility envisioned by the LaPorte Planning Advisory Committee. “Of 33 goals established by the committee, we believe LRM’s proposal is in conflict with 26 of them,” LaPorte resident Patty McElwaine said.
Fancher explained that in their mission to provide concrete for the Northern Colorado community, the operation will mine sand and gravel and process it into concrete in a batch plant to be built on the property. The mining operation is predicted to continue for about 10 years. The batch plant will probably operate beyond that time frame. However, the application LRM is submitting is for a 10-year period only. Reclamation will return the mine site to a use beneficial to the community and to the landowner, according to LRM. Large areas will become open space in an effort to preserve an agricultural buffer zone and a sense of separation from urban Fort Collins.
Opposers point out that the highway 287 (US 287) bypass was built in 1989 to keep heavy truck traffic out of LaPorte. They fear that truck traffic will increase through town. Fancher-English says truck traffic will not go through town except when it is delivering concrete to customers in the area.
Following receipt of LRM’s application, a public meeting will be held in LaPorte, followed by a Planning Commission public hearing before a recommendation goes to the Board of Commissioners, according to Helmick.
Interested individuals are encouraged to see the No Laporte Gravel website (https://nolaportegravel.org) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/No-LaPorte-Gravel-Mines-1372212589530875) or call the Larimer County Planning office at (970) 498-7683 for up-to-date information.