WHEATLAND – A subject of hot debate in the Platte County Planning and Zoning and Commissioners meetings this past week is a special use permit submitted by McMurray Redi-Mix and Nettie Dodge requesting to expand the current gravel pit on the corner of Sybille Creek Road and Jefferson.
Surrounding neighbors came out in force in opposition citing reasons of excessive road traffic, property value loss, noise and air pollution.
“The property is zoned agricultural. When we moved out there, we were expecting grazing cattle, hay and grain production, those sorts of things. We bought the property in 1984, we built our home in 1986 and there were no gravel pits when we moved out there. That pit went in with no notice, and we were told it was only for ranch work,” explained Jeannette Barber. “We were asked to sign a waiver in 2018 to allow the LMO (limited mining operation) to be there. We did not sign it.”
McMurray wishes to use the Tyler Dodge pit to provide the gravel needed for the Phifer Airfield renovation and wanted to use a local source. Barber replied, “We already have several gravel pits in the area to provide the aggregate.”
McMurray stated in the request that there wouldn’t be a significant impact to the local community. Barber disagreed.
“We feel it’s a huge impact. The haul traffic, the dirt and the dust especially in the high wind area which we are. Increased noise production and possible water pollution,” Barber said. “If this is allowed, there will be 85 acres of gravel pits out there. The DEQ said it’s up to your local board to protect you homeowners based on your rules or regulations.”
“They’ve got the whole shabang over there, bulldozers and all kinds of heavy equipment. So they’re already working on it before this has been permitted or allowed or even discussed,” said Reuben Navarro. “My wife has some health concerns that are lifetime issues. As a result of this mine, she will have to remain trapped at home or I’ll have to send her away for the summer. I have respiratory issues with the dust as well.”
Navarro went on to explain that during his research he uncovered that the Dodge Pit has a long history of non-compliance of state law. 15 years of not turning in reports and going over the allowed ten acres. According to the DEQ, the Tyler Dodge gravel pit is an abandoned mine. So it is not just an “expansion” of a current operating mine.
“I had no problem with the old pit. I went over to ask them about not starting at 3 and 4 a.m. and they were good after that,” said Shawn Rupert “But I just don’t want to look out my window and see a berm, didn’t move out there to see that. I don’t want to listen to a crusher. I don’t want to see a new one right next door even closer than the old one.”
Rob Jongsma for McMurray Redi-mix explained how the Airfield project requires a very specific type of gravel that the Dodge pit has.
“There’s a lot of other places with dirt and a lot of other places with rock. There’s not a lot of places with quality gravel that meet all the qualifications for certain projects. The airport is one of those projects,” Jongsma explained. “The airport has stipulations twice as extensive as WYDOT. There’s only certain places that meet those requirements and this area happens to be one of those.”
He said he spoke with DEQ and they said the Dodge pit did not have any compliance issues. He assured the board that his company would be reseeding the area and that when they get done with the operation at the end of the summer, the pit will look neat and orderly the way it should.
The gravel pit goes against the county regulation that an aggregate mine can’t be within a quarter mile of any residents unless those residents sign a notarized waiver. So going by that rule, the Planning and Zoning Board voted the permit down.
The issue was then brought up at the Commissioners meeting with the same neighbors in attendance to voice their objection. This time, Nettie Dodge was permitted more time to voice her side.
Dodge said that in the 1970s when she and her husband bought the land, they discovered that the property provides gravel better than grass for livestock. The “Tyler Dodge Gravel Pit” sign has been up since 1995, everyone knows that it’s a gravel pit area. She feels she has the right to use her property to the best advantage. She said according to Wyoming Statute 18-5-201 (No zoning resolution or plan shall prevent any use reasonably necessary to the extraction or production of the mineral resources in or under any lands), she isn’t even required to submit the permit for approval. Dodge submitted a letter to the Commissioners outlining court cases in Teton county where a similar case went to an appeals court when they were not allowed to expand their gravel extraction operations. The court determined that Wyoming’s public policy favors productive use of land and concluded that the family did not need the permit and could expand as they wished.
The board elected to table their vote until more research into the state statutes, the court cases in Teton county and how they relate to this instance.