I am a pro-business, pro-private property rights retired CPA. I work as the lead business counselor for Region 10 Small Business Development Corporation helping North Fork Valley residents start or expand businesses. As I work with these businesses I see that the agricultural and natural beauty of the area is what is attracting new people and establishments as well as increasing property values.
I am also a Paonia landowner since 1993, who was notified by the Delta County Planning Department that an application for a "change of use" to commercial/industrial for land along Highway 133 and along Stevens Gulch Road was up for approval by the Delta County Board of Commissioners on June 12 (now postponed to July 17). This land, about 97 acres in all, is owned by Bowie Resources LLC. Currently, Bowie is required, once mining use is abandoned, to restore the land to its "pre-mining use." This means restoring the 14 acres of abandoned equipment and deteriorating buildings along Highway 133 to "cropland" or agricultural use, and the Stevens Gulch area to grazing or pastures use. The cost of restoring this land is estimated to be $2.2 million.
If the Delta County Board of Commissioners denies the application for change of use, Bowie would most likely begin the reclamation of the land within about 18 months.
However, if Bowie is approved for a change of land use to commercial/industrial (and some residential), it can sell the land to Paonia Holdings LLC for a heavy equipment repair, storage and salvage yard. Neither Paonia Holdings LLC nor Bowie will then be required to restore the land as promised. The entrance to the North Fork Valley could remain a repair/salvage yard, or be sold again by Paonia Holdings LLC to another commercial user of any type. Again, any such new owner would have no requirement to restore the land to its pre-mining use. This is because the use would now be commercial/industrial.
Bowie provided over 200 good paying coal mining jobs to the North Fork. Because of this the surrounding property owners were happy to agree to the mining and mining support use on Bowie land, but only with the understanding that Bowie would honor the reclamation agreement once mining ceased. These property owners feel betrayed. Agricultural use, grazing, and agri-tourism are the direction the North Fork Valley master plan has envisioned. Bowie Resources LLC must honor its original commitment -- not only to the private property owners affected, but to the entire North Fork Valley economic community.
Judith K. Martin