A proposed concrete batch plant in the Falcon and Peyton area sparked passionate residents' opposition Tuesday as they raised concerns to the El Paso County Planning Commission about noise, air and water pollution, increased heavy truck traffic and a decline residential property values.
Despite the concerns, the planning commission voted 3-2 to recommend for approval a land-use variance needed to build the plant Pete Lien & Sons is proposing to build on 92 acres zoned for agricultural use, which does not allow for the plant. The company needs a variance because it failed to find property in the area zoned for industrial use, said Danielle Weibers, executive technical director of environment and safety for the company.
The planning commission's recommendation goes to the El Paso County Commission, which makes the final decision about approval or the variance.
Pete Lien & Sons bought the property at Stapleton Road and Judge Orr Road after meeting with county representatives and learning the plant would have potential compatibility issues with the neighborhood, according to city documents.
The company is planning to develop 23 acres of the parcel to provide more than double than the minimum setbacks required, Weibers said. The company also has plans to manage other environmental concerns, such as dust, she said.
Pete Lien & Sons operates two other plants in the county but expects to close one of them. Opening the new plant will allow the company to maintain jobs, Weibers said.
"We are coming in with a strong track record going back 76 years," she said.
Planning Commissioner Tom Bailey, who voted in favor of the plant, said the county needs to make room for industrial uses that neighbors might not like but the larger community needs.
"Our job here is to address that tension," he said. "... Nobody wants to live next to the power plant, but somebody has to."
Commission Chairman Brian Risley voted against the plant after stating he thought the company had not faced peculiar or exceptional difficulties or undue hardship, one of the criteria needed for a variance. He also did not think the use was compatible with the surrounding area, another one of the criteria, Risley said, but he acknowledged it was a tough decision.
"For me, this is not very black and white," he said.
The commission voted after hearing about an hour and a half of testimony from property neighbors and land developers opposed to the project. The commission also received seven letters in favor of the project in addition to 65 letters and three petitions opposed to it.
Area resident Tammy Davis described the proposal as a "heavy industrial bomb" that could be dropped in the middle of an agricultural area and likely pollute the air and water with dust.
She doubted the company's plans to water down the materials would work because of the high winds that sweep through the area frequently could dry out the materials and carry them across property lines.
Neighbor Rusty Renzelman also took issue with the company's plans to screen a planned 72-foot tower with trees that would take decades to mature.
"They are proposing a mammoth operation that is extraordinarily larger than any of their current operations," Renzelman said.
The heavy truck traffic the plant will generate was also a major concern for many residents. The county would require the company to pay road impact fees to help maintain the routes it plans to use for trucking, said Gilbert LaForce, an engineer with the county.
The company would also have to pay a portion of the costs to install a new traffic light planned for U.S. 24 and Stapleton Drive if the plant is approved, he said.