The Board of County Commissioners will place a limit on truck traffic at the State Highway 65/North Road intersection as part of its approval of the North Road gravel pit application on Monday.
County trucks hauling from the pit in future will be prohibited from making a right turn northbound on Highway 65.
Northbound gravel-hauling traffic will be required to pass straight through the intersection west on North Road and then on to destinations.
County staff estimated that the remaining 10 percent of gravel-haul traffic at the intersection planning to head south on Highway 65 will be allowed to turn left at the North Road intersection.
Heavy gravel-hauling truck traffic at the busy and crowded intersection was one of the issues raised by opponents to the county's plan to buy land and open the gravel pit a half mile east of Fruitgrowers Reservoir. Area residents raised a number of other problems they saw with the plan during the commissioners' public hearing on Monday, Feb. 3.
Resident complaints about proposed gravel pits in their areas have been a common feature here in the past four years. Two private pit applications turned down by the county along with the two county pit applications approved by commissioners have all featured strong neighbor opposition.
Among complaints that were aired Monday were the safety of people who use North Road for viewing birds; safety of the pit access location; safety of Hulteen Road; safety of the 2600/North Road intersection; placement of a parking area for bird watchers; and other issues.
In several instances, commission chair Bruce Hovde asked county staff to address specific concerns the public had raised during a planning commission hearing on Jan. 22.
County engineer Bob Kalenak said the 119 acres being purchased for the pit generated $180 in property tax last year so lost revenue from county ownership is not significant.
Consultant Mike Ripp said that even paying $355,000 for the property will yield years of gravel supply for only pennies a ton. He said the proposed half-acre parking location is "the best area," though bird watchers maintain it is a bird sanctuary.
Hovde said birdwatcher parking on North Road is already a safety concern. A proposed parking lot may help ease the problems which, he said "is a mess already."
County staff's direct solution to the issue of bird watchers and gravel trucks sharing the North road corridor is to post lower speed limits and caution signs in the reservoir area.
The complaint raised about the county buying 120 acres for 27 acres of minable gravel was answered saying the property is not available to buy piecemeal.
Road foreman Larry Record said the proposed pit access can be moved to a safer location on the east side.
Some other issues were left unresolved. An attorney for resident Dave Galinat said "the county has an interest" in its own pit application. Fairness requires that the issue be decided by an administrative law judge, he added. Lawyer Earle Rhodes also suggested a separate traffic safety study at SH65/North Road to complement a yet unfinished traffic-counts study being done for CDOT.
The issue of county competition with private gravel/aggregate operators has been raised before by businessman Hans Benson, and he raised it again on Monday. "The county does 100 percent of its own road construction, and for the Forest Service and the towns here, too. Where does the private guy stand," Benson said.
Benson and another neighbor, Connie Willis, questioned the county's need for the North Road pit when the county already owns abundant gravel at the nearby Pig Mesa pit.
Eckert naturalist and Harts Basin resident Evelyn Horn addressed the issue telling commissioners that "I speak for the birds" of the Hart's Basin ecosystem. She noted an economic benefit from birder tourism to the area. She said that truck traffic will disturb the wildlife. And while birders exiting their vehicles on North Road to view can also disturb birds, observing from their vehicles can avoid that, she said adding, "My hope is that we humans can avoid stressing the birds out,"
County staff said that the North Road pit won't be opened until another nearby county gravel pit, the currently operating Antelope Hill pit, is exhausted and closed in four to six years. Rhodes had suggested that a guarantee to that effect be included as part of county's approval to protect the interest of his client, Galinat.
Galinat claimed that county gravel trucks from the Antelope Hill pit had run his wife's car off Hulteen Road. Asked by Commissioner Doug Atchley if the incident was reported, road foreman Dan Sickles said that an incident had occurred "seven or eight years ago" during an experiment with one-way traffic on Hulteen Road. "The truck was going the wrong way," Galinat said.
Other unresolved issues, and perhaps new ones, may be expressed and addressed when CDOT responds to results of the traffic-counts study when it is completed.
Depending on gravel need, the North Road pit could remain open up to 30 years, maybe longer, county staff said.
The DCI has previously reported on county administration's accord with the Black Canyon Audubon Society on seven mitigation steps to be taken on behalf of birds that use Hart's Basin.blog comments powered by Disqus