Tuesday, June 23, 2020

El Paso County commissioners side with residents, reject concrete batch plant

Posted By on Tue, Jun 23, 2020 at 4:06 PM

click to enlarge This is an artist's rendering of a line of trees that were planned to obscure a concrete batch plant east of Colorado Springs. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY PLANNING DEPARTMENT
  • Courtesy El Paso County Planning Department
  • This is an artist's rendering of a line of trees that were planned to obscure a concrete batch plant east of Colorado Springs.
In an unusual move, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners unanimously sided with residents against a business that proposed building a concrete batch plant next to hundreds of 2.5-acre residential lots in the vicinity of Stapleton and Judge Orr roads.

It's an especially notable decision, considering the county's own Planning Commission voted 3 to 2 on June 2 to recommend approval.

But hundreds of residents signed petitions and flooded commissioners with emails opposing the Pete Lien & Sons LCC proposal, which occupied hours of the June 23 commissioners meeting.

The plan called for the company to build the batch plant, an operation that combines various ingredients to form concrete for use in construction projects, on roughly 20 acres amid a 90-acre tract that would be buffered from residential property with trees and prairie acreage.

Because the land isn't zoned industrial, Pete Lien & Sons was faced with its only alternative to gain approval — seek a variance. To satisfy the county's requirements, the applicant had to show the project would be compatible with surrounding property uses and fit in with the master plan for that area.

Danielle Weibers, a consultant who presented the proposal for the applicant, noted that traffic studies showed the project wouldn't overburden surrounding roads and that rejecting the proposal would prove a hardship, because there's scant industrial property in the county that's suitable for a batch plant.

She also noted, "Compatibility is in the eye of the beholder."

But Bill Guman, a landscape architect who spoke on behalf of dozens of landowners in the area, argued, "It is important for a compatible use to maintain the character of the development within the vicinity. A concrete batch plant is not compatible with rural residential neighborhoods."

Commissioners agreed, citing compatibility with surrounding residential and agricultural uses in refusing to approve the plan.

"I appreciate the applicant trying to put the most positive and best spin on this as possible," said Commission Chair Mark Waller, whose District 2 contains the property in question. He noted that a batch plant at Constitution Avenue and Marksheffel Road, which also is surrounded by homes, is a completely different situation because the industrial use was there first and the homes were built later.

He also took issue with the idea the county has no other potential sites. He suggested looking east along Highway 94, which is home to a shooting range, a garbage dump and other non-residential uses.

"That's the appropriate area to put something like this, not in a residential area," he said.

Commissioner Cami Bremer expressed concerns over the process. "I'm disappointed the variance process has been used to essentially spot zone, something we’re trying to get away from."

Said Commissioner Holly Williams, "You should be able to purchase your property understanding what’s going to be around it."


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