Montrose County commissioners on Tuesday gave the green light to a new green waste composting facility off Amber Road, despite lingering concerns and, in the words of board chairwoman Sue Hansen, after much lost sleep.
Under the special use permit granted to 3XM Grinding and Compost to operate Thunder Mountain Organics, the owners are to submit to inspections during business hours and are also subject to a six-month review, among multiple other conditions imposed.
“It’s not a light decision. I want the residents to know that this was a very difficult thing,” Hansen said.
To applicants Keith and Kirt Mautz, she added: “Please, do the right thing in our community and make sure you’re mitigating anything that might be disruptive to the neighbors because everybody has the right to live in this community and enjoy what we are all here for.”
The Mautz brothers already operate a composting business on their feedlot, but at Thunder Mountain, will be taking in recyclable green waste that would otherwise go into area landfills, shortening their lives.
The Thunder Mountain site is located at a former racetrack, on about 40 acres, which are zoned for general agriculture. The special use permit will allow the green waste composting, but, as already agreed upon, it precludes the original intent to process biosolids. The Mautzes withdrew that provision in the face of neighbors’ opposition; although some nearby residents remained concern with traffic, noise, dust, trash and pests.
The county commissioners delayed their decision twice, both times seeking more information. On Tuesday, staff came back with formalized additional conditions for the permit, including a requirement that the grinding and composting of packaged food waste be done in a building.
The Mautzes are to build one, with one solid side and the remaining three sides will be fenced to confine the materials being ground and to prevent blowing trash.
Other conditions include fencing on the property, berms and gating; there are more than 20 special conditions overall.
Before operations can begin, the business must obtain the necessary state permits, as well. As per the commissioners’ last meeting at which the permit was considered, the Mautzes are to supply reports the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment might issue concerning the operation of Thunder Mountain Organics.
Although the condition requiring a review of operations was initially envisioned as taking place a year after Thunder Mountain begins, Commissioner Keith Caddy wanted a shorter timeline — six months, he said, would be better.
“If there’s any problems, we need to address it sooner than later,” he said.
Hansen also favored six months, which she indicated would give time to see what issues might arise from dust, trash and odors.
The applicants have been highly responsive to concerns and have agreed to everything the county has asked, Hansen said, although she remained concerned because about 45 people live within the buffer zone of the composting facility.
“I’m not interested in standing in the way of business and I think this is a great idea. I think one of the citizens said it’s a (good project), maybe in the wrong place. My feeling is that we are obligated to our citizens to not make dumb decisions. I underscore the six-month compliance check with those conditions,” she said.
“ … We’ve all lost a lot of sleep about this project. We really deliberated and thought, each of us, about these conditions. It’s a very difficult decision because you will impact others. I hope that you will be a good neighbor and that means to me, be responsible, not just for six months, but maintaining that.”
Commissioner Roger Rash said he was not convinced the new conditions would serve to mitigate the concerns.
“I think it is a great business, wrong location. … For me, I just cannot get behind this at this time. Once again, there are people that live in that neighborhood. I don’t believe that it’s a proper location,” Rash said.
“I’ve thought about this; I’ve lost sleep over it. I think it’s a wonderful project, but those people are going to be living with this for a long, long time.”
Rash said he is also concerned about what happens if, after six months and a heavy investment by the Mautzes, the county finds cause to shut down Thunder Mountain Organics.
Some of the site’s neighbors also remained opposed. None of the conditions imposed would have been necessary, had the Mautzes decided on a different area, neighboring property owner Gordy Diers said later Tuesday.
“I don’t know why they’re so dead set on putting that within (range of) 45 homes. I don’t know why they would go ahead with it when they’re on six-month probation,” he said.
“If there are enough people who complain, that would be one heck of a big investment” to lose, Diers added, also questioning why 3XM Grinding and Compost’s funding sources would be willing to invest when the special use permit could be revoked.
He also is concerned about the berm impeding the line of sight for traffic on Amber Road.
Diers said zones were set up for a reason — to protect the health and welfare of those who already live within them.
“I just don’t think it’s a good fit for the community. The commissioners have tried to do the best they could. there was a lot of pressure, a lot of letters written in favor of the compost,” he said.
“I still say it’s a wonderful idea, just in the wrong place,” Diers added.
Keith Mautz said after the commissioners’ meeting that he does not anticipate having trouble adhering to the permit. He also noted other composting operations have been in place with no trouble.
The state permitting is in the works and, once that is in place, along with a certificate of designation from the county, 3xM can begin setting up Thunder Mountain Organics, a process that should take about four months.
“We should be good to go,” he said, adding that the composting at his current feedlot encompasses a similar area, with many of the same neighbors, yet he’s not heard complaints.
Mautz said Thunder Mountain would be a good neighbor.
“We have a good process that shouldn’t bother anybody,” he said.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.