St. Vrain Valley activists appeal decision supporting 1998 mining permit‘s validity

If you go

What: Boulder County Board of Adjustment hearing on appeal of Martin Marietta mining decision

When: 4 p.m. June 6

Where: Boulder County Courthouse Commissioners Hearing Room, third floor, 1325 Pearl St.

More info:

A nonprofit group opposed to gravel mining operations by Martin Marietta Material has filed an appeal of a Boulder County decision paving the way for eventual operations on about 881 acres in Hygiene.

Boulder County Land Use Director that he had determined that the county‘s conditions and permission for such a “special use” of the land south of Colo. 66 and east of Lyons, under a permit first approved by the county in August 1998, was still applicable nearly 20 years after the fact.

But at the same time, Case said that actual mining on the land could still be more than five years away. That‘s because of the requirement that under the county‘s Land Use Code, Martin Marietta would still be required to complete one or more special “interim” county reviews of its mining plans “to determine whether the terms and conditions” of the 1998 special-use approval were sufficient or require amendments, as he stated in a letter to a company lawyer.

The determination by Case came in response to a Martin Marietta request for information about the status of its 1998 permit, which was originally issued to Western Mobile Boulder Inc., owner of the land at that time.

Case‘s findings set a 30-day window in which nonprofit group Save Our St. Vrain Valley, which opposes the mining as a threat to the rural and agricultural traditions of the area where mining is targeted to occur, could file an appeal to his decision to the Boulder County Board of Adjustment.

Amanda Dumenigo, chairperson and executive director of Save Our St. Vrain Valley, trains with her horse Lakota near her home near Hygiene. She opposes plans for Martin Marietta Materials to gravel mine across Hygiene Road directly in the background seen behind the horse pen. ()

The activists came in just under the wire, filing an appeal on May 10, through a Denver law firm representing its interests in the case.

‘Sporadic actions to minimally comply‘

A letter from attorney Mark Lacis on behalf of SOSVV asserts that “Case erred in concluding that the special use permit approved (in 1998) had not lapsed … despite the fact that it is undisputed that neither the current permitholder nor its predecessors has engaged in any mining at the site for more than a decade.”

It points out that the Boulder County Land Use Code “provides that any approved use by special review shall lapse and be of no further force and effect if a special use permit is inactive for any continuous five-year period.”

The letter alleges that no materials have been extracted from the site for “much longer than five years,” at least since 2006, “and very likely not since 2001.”

Noting that “it is undisputed that no materials have been excavated and that no mining operations have occurred at the site for more than a decade,” Lacis‘ letter states that nevertheless, “Case concluded that the permitholders‘s sporadic actions to minimally comply with other legal requirements (wholly divorced from active mining at the site) constitutes ‘activity‘ to indefinitely prevent the permit from lapsing.”

In issuing his decision on April 11, Case cited the original county resolution approving the 1998 special use permit, which placed no fewer than 35 conditions on that approval, including the final one. That called for Martin Marietta to convene a community advisory committee with at least 60 percent of its membership consisting of residents who live within 1 mile of the site.

“Staff suggests Martin Marietta establish this committee as soon as is practical,” Case wrote. “The level of interest and potential impacts to neighbors in the area makes it important to establish an open and clean line of communication between Martin Marietta and its neighbors.”

‘Cart before the horse‘

Amanda Dumenigo, chairperson and executive director of Save Our St. Vrain Valley, said there has been no movement on Martin Marietta‘s part yet to do so, and she is not holding her breath over the prospect.

“Definitely not,” she said. “It doesn‘t appear that they care what the citizens‘ opinions are.”

She added: “They very early on told us that they would be doing a presentation for the community, and they very quickly changed their minds. We did get an email saying we would get a notice within a month, and that they would have a presentation within one to two months. I want to say that was in March of 2017. And there was no follow-up.”

Martin Marietta Land Manager Julie Mikulas said Thursday, “We have not created that community group. We‘ll get that organized after the appeal is finished.

“We‘re not opposed to working with the community. We‘re just waiting to get through this legal process first.”

Dumenigo also cited her group‘s dissatisfaction with Boulder County in January 2017 for having for constructing a processing plant and other structures on the company‘s property.

“We‘re not happy with the way this has been handled by the county,” said Dumenigo, who operates the equine-facilitated learning center at her property. “They have put the cart before the horse.

“They approved the building site and then all of a sudden, it‘s as if they had not even noticed about the five-year lapsed decision. At that point, they had already approved the building sites, which Dale Case admitted kind of implied to Martin Marietta that (the 1998 permit) was still valid.”

Asked a timeline for when Martin Marietta might plan to start mining activities at the contested site, Mikulas said, “We were ready to start a year ago. We‘ll evaluate it again once the appeal is finished.”