An excavation and concrete company operating without a permit was told to stop after residents raised concerns over noise, dust and the smell of manure throughout a neighborhood in southeast Durango.
“The stench is just god-awful,” said Kathy Myrick, who lives in the Boulders at Escalante townhomes near Home Depot. “It has to stop.”
The property in question, located between the Boulders at Escalante townhomes and the Rocket Pointe Apartments just south of downtown Durango, has historically been used as a truck yard.
The land is known as an enclave, which means it is under La Plata County jurisdiction but surrounded by properties annexed into the city of Durango.
Around March, residents in the area started to notice more trucks dumping piles of dirt and other material, said Sean Clifton, president of Boulders at Escalante Homeowners Association.
“But it wasn’t until they started trucking in equal quantities of manure – that’s when everyone started to notice and it became a big problem,” Clifton said.
Residents reached out to the Lucky 7 Co., which operates in Durango and Ignacio, but Clifton said the owner never ended up agreeing to meet. The land is owned by Florida-based Escalante Partners LLC and is leased by Lucky 7.
So, residents reached out to La Plata County officials and the state’s Air Pollution Control Commission.
Megan Graham, spokeswoman for the county, said the land is permitted for use as a truck yard – not the topsoil processing being conducted by Lucky 7.
“So they are not operating under a valid land-use permit,” she said.
County officials tried to reach the Lucky 7 owner, as well as the property owner, through multiple letters and notices in early June, but never heard back, Graham said.
A notice of violation was sent at the end of June, Graham said.
“They haven’t gone through the proper channels,” she said.
The issue is now with the county attorney’s office and will be discussed with La Plata County commissioners in the coming weeks during a public meeting.
A representative with Lucky 7 who answered the company’s phone Thursday disagreed that his company is not using the land properly.
The man hung up before giving his name and did not return multiple calls Thursday. The company’s listed owner is Ty Brandon Hawkins, according to the Colorado Secretary of State Office.
The representative said Lucky 7 started dumping topsoil mixed with manure around 2018. He said about 400 cubic yards of material is now at the property.
“I don’t think there’s any smell there,” he said. “It’s just topsoil.”
The man said he was unaware why talks with neighbors didn’t pan out, and he said he has hired an attorney to deal with county permitting issues.
“The history of that place has been a truck yard,” he said. “We’re working with the county now to see why they think it’s changed.”
The registered agent for Escalante Partners LLC is Ronald S. Gelber of Miramar, Florida, who did not return calls seeking comment.
John Wells with the Wells Group, who is helping sell the property, said Gelber has leased the land to Lucky 7 for the past few years.
“I notified (Lucky 7) that the occupants to the south were concerned and upset with the uses on the property,” Wells said. “He has been directed to, and I’m assuming he has started talking to the county.”
Clifton said that since issues have been raised with the county, Lucky 7’s activity at the site has decreased.
The state’s Air Pollution Control Division visited July 15 and July 16 for an inspection, but no activity was going on at the site, said Andrew Bare, a spokesman for the department.
“This shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that residents were mistaken about dust or odors,” he said. “We can only issue a notice of violation when we observe one. We will continue to keep an eye on the site, and we encourage residents to notify us if the situation changes.”
Clifton said the odor is unbearable. When the wind picks up, dust whips around the neighborhood and gets into homes. And, residents fear the issue will affect property values.
“Over the years, we’ve lived with trucks parking there, starting their engines late at night or early in the morning,” he said. “But this manure is so disgusting, we’re really upset now.”
Myrick said she’s concerned about her and her neighbors breathing in the dust that is kicked up from the pile.
“We’d like to see those piles of dirt and manure disappear,” she said.