Four large operators of gravel pits in Tooele County aren’t happy with a proposed new ordinance that would change the way their business is regulated.
The Tooele County Planning Commission held a second public hearing Wednesday night on a proposed new chapter for the Tooele County Land Use Ordinance. The new chapter would govern all mining, quarry, sand and gravel extraction in the county, including currently permitted operations and legal nonconforming operations, according to Jody Burnett, outside legal counsel to the county. Burnett is with the Salt Lake City-based firm of Snow Christensen & Martineau.
“The current land use ordinance doesn’t address nonconforming uses,” said Burnett. “And it doesn’t tackle regulation.”
The ordinance places limitations, restrictions and controls on dust, noise, vibration, smoke, lights and odors. Fences or other suitable barriers are required for excavation sites, along with the prevention of the discharge of waste water onto private or public roads and property.
All trucks, equipment and machinery operating on public roads are required to comply with county and state road limitations such as weight limits, according to the proposed ordinance.
It also restricts the hours of the transport of aggregate materials from excavation sites to between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturdays. No hauling is permitted on Sundays and no excavation operations will be allowed on eight specified holidays.
Most gravel and sand operations in Tooele County are already well-regulated, according to Dak Maxfield, real estate manager for Staker & Parson Companies.
Maxfield spoke during the public hearing on behalf of a group of mining and aggregate operators in Tooele County that includes Staker & Parson Companies, Kilgore Companies, Geneva Rock Products, and Rulon Harper Construction.
Maxfield started by explaining the gravel industry’s investment and contribution to Tooele County.
“There are about 60 gravel operations in Tooele County and our four companies represent around 20 of those,” Maxfield said. “Our four companies combined have about a $100 million investment in Tooele County. Over the last five years, we have contributed around $1.8 million in property and sales tax to the county. And we employ around 200 Tooele County residents.”
The majority of gravel operations in Tooele County are in rural and unpopulated areas of the county and most of them operate subject to a conditional use permit issued by the county, according to Maxfield.
He explained that in addition to existing county regulations, the gravel industry is regulated by the Utah Division of Oil, Gas, and Mines; the Utah Division of Air Quality; the Utah Division of Water Quality; the Utah Department of Environmental Quality; The Utah Department of Transportation; the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration; and both the Utah and U.S. Occupational and Safety and Health Administration.
“Is the new ordinance needed with all the regulations we already have?” Maxfield asked.
Stewart Lamb, with Kilgore Companies, said the new ordinance feels uncomfortable.
“I think there is a procedural question,” he said. “It doesn’t sit right from a property rights perspective that the county comes in now and says ‘we’ve changed the rules.’”
In a 12-page document sent to the Tooele County Planning Commission on May 23, the four companies outlined their concerns with the new ordinance.
“The proposed ordinance uses a one-size-fits-all approach that does not consider the individual nature or circumstances of each of our operations, nor does it fully understand and consider how the proposed ordinance might impact those operations and the county,” reads the document.
For example, the limitations placed on operating hours not only reduces production capability, but it also forces all of the companies’ gravel trucks onto roads during peak traffic times, according to the companies’ document.
The companies are also concerned that the proposed ordinance gives broad authority to the community development director to revoke or deny excavation permits without clearly identified criteria.
The impetus for the new ordinance appears to be primarily complaints from residents in Lake Point and Stansbury about existing gravel operations in the area and complaints from South Rim residents about a potential gravel pit, according to the four companies.
In their written statement the four companies suggests that the county “tailor the proposed ordinance to specifically address operations that are near existing developments, not on operations that are far removed from any development. … The group wants to continue to work in the county and believes that the current conditional use permit process is the best mechanism to address property uses and restrictions.”
The planning commission voted to table the proposed ordinance change and to take it up again in a work session during its July 18 meeting. Planning commission members were asked to send their suggested revisions to the planning staff over the next two weeks so they could be incorporated in a new draft.
The proposed ordinance may be downloaded from the Tooele County Planning Commission’s June 6 agenda on the county’s SIRE Public Access website at http://tcdms.org/sirepub/meet.aspx. Public comments may emailed to Jason Losee, Tooele County planning staff, at email@example.com.