The Montezuma County Planning and Zoning board gave initial approval for D&L Construction to do business on land near the Cortez Industrial Park, amid opposition from about a dozen residents and businesses attending a meeting on Thursday.
D&L Construction applied for a high-impact permit to use its 35-acre property at 25716 Road L for storage and a crushing operation that makes road material.
During a packed meeting Thursday, the board voted 5-0 to recommend approval, citing zoning and property rights.
“It is in an industrial overlay in an area that has that continued use,” said planning board member Rob Pope.
“While I hear your concerns, I don’t feel it’s right to grab property rights and say ‘you can’t do that’ when they are following the rules,” he added.
The application for the high-impact permit next goes to the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners for consideration on May 8.
As a condition of the permit’s recommendation, the property can be used only for crushing and storage operations as described in the application and site plan, said Planning and Zoning Director LeeAnn Milligan.
Any additional use, such as a hot-asphalt plant, would go through a separate permitting process, she said.
“We’re not permitting an asphalt plant here,” said board member Bob Clayton. “This permit is for storage and some crushing.”
Milligan added that changing the commercial-industrial zoning for the property would require approval from the county commission. If the commission gave final approval to D&L before amending the zoning law, D&L’s industrial use would be grandfathered in, officials said.
Conditional permit is approvedAfter hearing from the industrial area’s neighbors, board member Kelly Belt recommended that the decision be postponed so it could be researched. Board member Stan Pierce agreed, and seconded the motion. But on a final vote, the motion to delay the decision failed, 2-3.
A second motion by Clayton recommended that the permit be approved with conditions. It was passed unanimously.
During Thursday’s meeting, D&L owners Dave and Lana Waters said they plan to crush materials from demolition projects at the old Montezuma-Cortez High School and Cortez Fire Protection District for use as road materials.
“We bought the property because of the industrial overlay of the county,” Dave Waters said. “If we don’t recycle this material, it will go to the landfill.”
Lana Waters added that there has been a misconception that D&L is seeking permission for a hot-asphalt plant. Such a plant would require a separate county permit process.
Neighbors objectThe neighborhood, just north of Cortez city limits, is a mix of residential, agricultural and industrial uses. The Cortez Industrial Park and adjacent properties have historically been used for the construction industry, including crushing and gravel operations. The subdivision plat for the industrial park was created by the city in 1980.
In the past several years, swaths of land near the industrial park have been set aside for recreation. In 2014, the city acquired land adjacent to the Carpenter Natural Area to create Geer Park. In 2016, Keith Evans teamed up with the Montezuma Land Conservancy and Great Outdoors Colorado to protect public access to his 40-acre bike park east of Geer.
Evans’ bike park is adjacent to the D&L Construction proposal. He said that a crushing facility is incompatible with an area that has been moving away from industrial uses.
“The neighborhood has evolved, and the codes should evolve with it,” Evans said.
Although planning officials reasserted that D&L’s permit application was for storage and crushing operations, the mention of possible hot-asphalt plant in the application appeared to worry and confuse some residents at the meeting.
Osprey Packs Inc., which has a warehouse in the nearby Cortez Industrial Park, which is within city limits, has objected to heavy industrial uses in the area.
“A hot-mix plant is the most concerning because pollution would blow over and have an adverse impact on the health of our employees,” said Rob BonDurant, Osprey’s vice-president of marketing. He also said that the company has sent staff home because of fumes from the industrial park.
In a recent Cortez Planning and Zoning board meeting, Osprey requested an amendment that would allow it to provide day care center for employees’ children in the industrial park.
But on April 4, the Cortez planning board voted unanimously to reject Osprey’s request, in part on the grounds that the industrial park is too dangerous for children.
Neighbor Candace Brantner worried about the industrial impacts, including pollution, dust, noise, truck traffic and lighting.
“The application is too vague as to what will be allowed. It is not a good fit for the neighborhood or for the nearby Geer Natural Area,” she said.
Neighbor Dale Forte said he was concerned heavy industrial use will hurt property values, and that the location is not ideal for an area with a growing residential presence.
“We could end up with an asphalt plant in the middle of it all,” he said.
Dr. Brian Demby said pollution from such industrial operations is toxic, and urged planners to find a better location.
“It’s an odd place for it, next to a natural area and near the (Southwest Memorial) hospital,” he said.
Of the 12 public comments voiced, 11 opposed the project, and one supported it. Cole Smith said the business use should be approved because it is needed for roads and would create jobs.
D&L Construction owners pressed on amid the opposition.
“This process is holding up my business,” Waters said. “If anyone wants to purchase my land to stop this, come talk to me. I’d like to exercise my rights and use my property.”
After a sometimes heated two-hour debate and discussion, the planning board voted 5-0 to recommend approval, citing historical construction use, county zoning for commercial and industrial purposes in that area, and private property rights.
“The purpose of an industrial area is for industrial uses,” Clayton said. “If this was somewhere else, there would be a crowd of different people against it.”