The citizens of LaPorte in attendance at the April 18 meeting of the Larimer County Planning Commission had a hard time restraining themselves. Only a few claps and cheers came from those who have worked so hard and long to prove that providing access for heavy trucks hauling gravel onto State Highway 287 via North Overland Trail was unsafe and incompatible with the area. They saved their elation for later, outside the formal atmosphere of the hearing room.
It was midnight by the time the meeting closed with a final vote by the Planning Commission to deny Timberline Resources’ request for a new access route to their proposed gravel mining operation located on 295 acres north of LaPorte. The request now moves on to the Larimer County Commissioners for a final decision accompanied by the Planning Commission’s recommendation to deny.
The request to amend the access route for Timberline Resources was the fifth and final item on the Commission’s agenda for the evening, resulting in a meeting that lasted for six hours.
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Thirty-two residents signed up for the opportunity to speak for two minutes each to emphasize their concerns ranging from noise and air pollution, loss of property values, impacts on businesses to anticipated traffic disasters resulting from 335 heavily-loaded trucks travelling on Overland Trail between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. every weekday. Members of the Planning Commission listened carefully to each speaker, some obviously emotional, despite the lengthy meeting and late hour. In the end, they showed sympathy for both sides which was reflected in their mixed vote. They indicated the fact that this decision was one of the hardest they had ever confronted.
Timberline Resources, formerly known as Hawkeye Ranch, owned by John Donaldson, has a long history. A permit to mine gravel was granted to the company in 2005, with access via Highway 287, but mining operations never took place. Speaking for the applicant, Timberline Resources, Stephanie Hansen outlined a number of concessions and improvements designed to mitigate resident concerns about a proposed new access route, but in the end they were not enough.
Timberline Resources has not yet identified an operator for their proposed gravel mining operation because they hoped to identify a new and more financially viable access route before seeking an operator.
If the Overland Trail access route is denied by the County Commissioners, Timberline is likely to approach the Colorado Department of Transportation for permission to modify and make use of the original Highway 287 access route. Larimer County senior planner, Rob Helmick, suggested it was likely that under the circumstances, CDOT would be in favor of granting their request.
The citizens of LaPorte know their battle has not yet been won. For now, they are celebrating a victory and preparing for whatever lies ahead.