South Rim residents think they have found a smoking gun solution to their year-long battle with a neighboring gravel pit.
Over 27 South Rim residents gathered in a neighbor’s home Tuesday evening to get an update on the community’s effort to keep a 15-acre gravel pit across the street from expanding to cover an additional 160 acres.
Their newest find: A copy of a 2001 Development Agreement between Tooele County and L&B Development for the benches at South Rim Project.
A 10-acre parcel of property owned by the county and which included the gravel pit, was conveyed to South Rim, LC as part of that agreement.
According to the development agreement, “Developer will be allowed to use the pit run material from this gravel pit for the improvement of the roads within the Project and the improvements made to Silver Avenue. Upon completion of the Project, Developer will close the gravel pit in accordance with the specifications for closure as provided by the County.”
South Rim resident Scott Hunter suggested the development agreement is like a nail in the coffin for the gravel pit.
“It’s pretty cut and dry,” Hunter said. “Silver Avenue is done. The roads in South Rim are done. The county needs to require the pit to be closed — now.”
Hunter said he wants the county to use its current gravel pit ordinance as the closure specifications and require the pit to be closed and reclamation completed in six months.
South Rim resident Matt McCarty agrees with Hunter.
“It’s very simple,” McCarty said. “The county should immediately enforce the South Rim Development Agreement from 2001 and have the land owners close and reclaim the gravel pit. They should have done that years ago.”
The residents plan to attend the next county commission meeting and ask them to enforce the agreement.
“The document speaks for itself,” said South Rim resident Mark Turgeon. “Now is the time for the county commissioners to act on it.”
Right now the residents of South Rim who oppose the pit don’t think they will need to hire an attorney, according to Hunter.
“It’s pretty plain when you read the agreement that the pit should be closed,” said Hunter.
Hunter does question why the county didn’t find the development agreement a long time ago, since he has been involved in fighting the gravel pit for nearly a year.
“Was it incompetence or deceit?” he asked.
Turgeon was concerned that county officials weren’t looking out for their citizens.
“The county was more concerned with accommodating the developer than listening to the tax paying citizens,” he said.
Some residents are hoping their fight is over.
“I did not spend my life savings to live adjacent from a commercial gravel pit and expose my children to all the health and safety risks,” said South Rim resident Tony Morgan.
The battle over the gravel pit has produced two advisory opinions from the Office of the State Property Rights Ombudsman.
The first opinion, requested by Scott Hunter, advised that the conditional use permit for the 10-acre gravel pit became invalid when the property was rezoned in 1998 to rural residential with a five-acre minimum lot size.
However, the ombudsman also advised that gravel extraction could continue on the parcel as a legal nonconforming use.
The second opinion, requested by gravel pit owner Jay Harwood, advised that according to the doctrine of diminishing assets, gravel extraction can expand to the boundaries of the parcel or parcels upon which gravel operations existed at the time the use became nonconforming.
Harwood has interpreted that second opinion to mean he can expand gravel extraction to the full extent of his 176 acres.
After reading the two ombudsman’s advisory opinions, county officials are proceeding with caution, taking time to gather pertinent facts before reaching a conclusion, according to Tooele County Attorney Scott Broadhead.
Specific comment from the county about the 2001 development agreement was not received by press time.
“Based upon the two opinions from the Office of Property Rights Ombudsman and a subsequent conversation with the Ombudsman, it is clear that further research regarding the history of the property is necessary,” Broadhead said. “The County Attorney’s Office is doing a review of the history of the property in order to apply the Ombudsman’s legal opinion.”
An updated legal opinion will be provided to the county commission so they can decide a course of action, according to Broadhead.