Instead of a deadline that ended today, gravel operators now have more time to decide if they want to challenge Tooele County’s new ordinance regulating existing gravel pits.
The County Commission approved a tolling agreement with gravel operators during the commission’s Tuesday night meeting at the county building.
The tolling agreement essentially stays the time period for gravel operators to file a lawsuit challenging the county’s new ordinance that regulates existing permitted and nonconforming gravel pits, according to Tooele County Attorney Scott Broadhead.
The County Commission adopted the gravel pit regulations in 2018. They went into effect on Jan. 8, 2019.
Gravel pit operators had 30 days, or until Feb. 7, to file a lawsuit challenging the regulations “on their face,” meaning a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the regulations or the authority of the county to enact the regulations, according to Broadhead.
The 30-day time limit does not apply to a lawsuit challenging the application, or how the regulations are enforced, according to Broadhead.
The tolling agreement allows for the combination of two kinds of challenges to the regulations.
“Do you want one lawsuit or two?” Broadhead said.
Some gravel operators have been lobbying the state Legislature to pass a law that would take regulating gravel operations away from counties and give it to the state, according to Broadhead.
The tolling agreement would give both the county and the gravel operators time to see what the Legislature does this year, Broadhead said.
“The tolling agreement doesn’t sacrifice any rights on behalf of the county,” he said. “It stops the 30-day time period. If we don’t [approve the tolling agreement] we will have at least one lawsuit by Thursday.”
As of Tuesday’s County Commission meeting, six gravel operators, including the largest ones, had signed the tolling agreement, according to Broadhead.
County Commissioner Shawn Milne said he found the attitude of the gravel operators to be “irritating” and “caustic.”
“I would like to go on the record that I’m disappointed,” he said. “There’s been a lot of negotiation going on to try and prevent costly lawsuits. … We have been working well with some of theses parties, trying to address problems their industry has created with our citizens in the first place. Here we have invited them to the table for the last year. In the spirit of compromise, neither side got 100 percent of what they wanted. Now they’re saying we just don’t like that we didn’t get 100 percent of what we want, so we’re threatening to sue you.”
“In the short term it [the tolling agreement] may allow cooler heads to prevail,” said County Commission Chairman Tom Tripp.
“With that hope,” said Milne, “I will make the motion to support the agreement.”