Whether Transit Mix Concrete will abandon its controversial plan to mine a rugged patch of land in southwestern El Paso County is still in question, more than four months after a state board denied the company’s second application for a quarry permit.
The Mined Land Reclamation Board voted 3-2 in May against Transit Mix’s proposal for the Hitch Rack Ranch quarry, citing the company’s failure to prove that the quarry wouldn’t do irreversible damage to the drinking water supply for a cluster of subdivisions off Colorado 115 near Little Turkey Creek Road.
In a 14-page order released Monday, the board detailed its rationale and reiterated those concerns, saying Transit Mix did not demonstrate that the mine would have minimal impacts on the area’s “prevailing hydrologic balance” or “quantity of groundwater systems.”
During the two-day hearing that preceded the board’s vote, nearby residents shared an array of concerns, such as effects on habitat for the threatened Mexican spotted owl.
Transit Mix initially applied for a state permit in 2016. The board rejected that by the same vote, citing concerns raised by neighbors, the threats to water and wildlife habitat.
The company applied again last fall, reducing the size and life of the proposed quarry and moving the operation south of Little Turkey Creek Road.
If Transit Mix wishes to continue its push for permission to mine the space, it has three options: Appeal the board’s decision by filing a petition for judicial review, file a motion for reconsideration with the board, or amend its proposal and apply for a permit a third time.
Transit Mix pursued two of those options when its first application was denied. It asked the board to reconsider, saying opponents had improperly presented evidence at a hearing. Then it withdrew its petition for reconsideration and filed a petition for judicial review that named nearly 100 quarry opponents as defendants. The lawsuit, which opponents have called an attempt to strong-arm them into silence, was dismissed in June at the request of Transit Mix’s attorneys.
But if the company has plans now, it’s keeping mum. Spokesman Daniel Cole declined to say whether the company was pursuing any of the three options or evaluating other potential sites.
The company still leases 865 acres of mineral rights on the ranch property from the Colorado State Land Board, said Phil Courtney, a solid minerals leasing manager for the board.
Courtney said he expects Transit Mix to decide “in the very near future” whether it will keep that lease.
As of the end of April, Transit Mix had invested nearly $7 million in the project, says a quarterly report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission by its parent company, Chicago-based Continental Materials. During its first quarter, the parent company wrote off $6.9 million of capitalized costs associated with the second permit application, according to the report.
With Transit Mix’s next moves unclear, its proposal to sell the Pikeview Quarry property to the city of Colorado Springs to build a “world-class bike park” remains on hold. Before the board’s decision, the company wowed the local cycling community when it released flashy renderings showing the notorious eyesore in northwest Colorado Springs transformed into a center for all cycling disciplines, from BMX to downhill mountain biking.
“We were amazed at the positive and overwhelming response to the bike park. The hope is that it still happens,” Transit Mix President Jerry Schnabel said in a statement. “Unfortunately the closure of Pikeview is dependent on another rock source for the company. The opposition knows that the bike park depended on the Hitch Rack Quarry being approved.”
Residents who opposed the plan have taken a break since the board’s decision, which they saw as a monumental victory.
“We’re hoping that with two denials, that they realize that this is not the right location,” said Kristan Rigdon, spokeswoman for the group, the Highway 115 Citizens Advisory Committee.
“We all have, in kind of a way, moved on. Now we just have to see if it’s really over.”