Several minutes of silence passed Thursday evening, before Montrose County Planning Commissioner Dennis Murphy made the motion to advance a proposed composting facility on Amber Road.
Although applicant 3xM Grinding and Compost nixed its original plans to bring in biosolids to the intended Thunder Mountain Organics site, neighboring property owners who spoke Thursday maintained concerns about dust, traffic and property values.
“I had some problems with the biosolids stuff,” Murphy said, after public comment.
“I think the applicant has made a fairly diligent effort to accommodate most of our concerns. I think we’ve listened to a lot of the public comments at the last meeting and incorporated those into conditions, that, at this point, I’m feeling fairly confident that we could proceed with something that would protect the health, safety and welfare of citizens. … At this point, I could support the proposal.”
Murphy’s motion went to a vote after Dave Frank’s second. With a 4-1 decision, planning commission sent the application for a special use permit to the Montrose County commissioners for further consideration on July 17, with Rob Smith the lone nay.
The permit, if ultimately approved, would not change the zoning from general agriculture, but rather, would allow composting at the site as a special use.
Brothers Keith and Kirt Mautz sought the special use permit to operate the former Thunder Mountain Speedway site as a green waste composting business. The Mautzes operate another composting facility, using manure from their own feedlot, on Banner Road.
Following neighborhood outcry, the family met with concerned residents and decided to no longer seek to compost biosolids — human sewage already anaerobically treated — at the Amber Road site.
Neighbor Gordy Diers said on Wednesday he was pleased with the news and cautiously optimistic. Thursday, he said he was concerned at the prospect of manure also being composted at the Thunder Mountain/Amber Road location.
New special use conditions Planning Director Steve White earlier enumerated barred “animal waste,” language the Mautzes wanted clarified so that it would not be read as precluding manure, but instead, would mean animal-processing waste.
“The Mautzes currently process (manure) at their feedlot. I don’t think they need this additional facility to process more animal waste. Because it smells. There’s no question about it,” Diers said.
“The odors would be nearly obnoxious from animal wastes as they are from human wastes. … If that’s allowed, I’m as against it as can be. I am not against it for composting, because composting is a good thing.”
The Mautzes do not require a permit to compost the manure from their own lot, but do in order to accept such waste from others. During the hearing and after, Keith and Kirt pointed to other similar operations that also generate odor from manure, including one whose site work is not complete. Theirs would be an engineered facility that keeps manure from seeping into groundwater, Keith said.
Some of those who spoke were mollified after learning biosolids won’t be permitted under the new conditions — as long as that was a certainty, and provided dust is taken care of.
“I’m really glad they took out the bio(solids). I’m for the facility, as long as the dust doesn’t come to me,” said Don Taylor, who previously circulated petitions opposing the site.
“My big concern is the traffic on the road. … If this place sells, will this no-bio be permanent forever and ever, till death do us part?”
The special use permit and all of its conditions, if ultimately approved, go with the land, White said.
Others who took their turn at the mic also asked about dust and traffic, as well as property values.
A resident on nearby 5900 Road, Ken Wilson, asked the county to go to bat for him, by making sure the road is treated with magnesium chloride to keep down dust.
Another Olathe resident told planning commissioners “we can fire you all if you let it in,” before being reminded that the planning commission is a volunteer body, appointed by the elected county commissioners.
“Is it going to be in your backyard? Well, it’s sure going to be in mine,” the man said.
The commission is a volunteer board, which the elected county commissioners appoint, alternate planning commissioner Jim Haugsness reminded everyone.
Dave Taylor lives along 5925 Trail, which borders part of the 38-acre Thunder Mountain parcel. He told of prevailing winds that carry dust and sawdust. “We have five families that have to breathe that,” he said.
Keith Mautz said roads on the site would be graveled, as well as wetted down when necessary. He earlier told planning board Chairman David Seymour there is a tap for potable water onsite, which can be used for emergencies like fires and that when ditch water isn’t available, a large tank on the property will supply enough for operations.
The Mautzes must also receive appropriate access permits from the state, as well as operate in accordance with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regulations; they have to obtain a permit from that agency, as well.
Those regulations and the application include a detailed odor mitigation plan, which spells out requirements to immediately address problem odors. Indeed, a complainant can pick up the phone and expect an immediate response through the CDPHE, Mautz told planning commissioner Lana Kinsey.
“All of us believe in something called the Code of the West,” Kinsey said. “It’s ‘be a good neighbor.’ … It sounds to me like you do have an immediate remediation plan in place, if there was something that needed to be addressed immediately.”
Throughout the hearing, the Mautzes fielded questions from the commission concerning issues such as fencing and the construction of a berm along Amber Road, both of which are among the special use permit conditions.
The brothers estimated two trucks a day coming in during winter months and a few more during spring and summer.
The former biosolids component only accounted for a small amount of materials that would be coming in for processing. The applicants also took cardboard out of the mix because neighbors did not want it blowing off property.
The Mautzes said they have put together a plan with area municipalities to install 40-yard roll bins to collect waste that would come to them for composting.
“They all want to do this. Not only the good environmental benefits, but also the landfill,” Keith said. “All the material that doesn’t show up at the landfill, that’s how long it will extend its life.” If all recyclable material were to be removed from a landfill “it would be huge,” he said.
Although the Mautzes cleared an initial hurdle, not all neighbors left satisfied.
Brenton Martinez told the planning board his family’s position has not changed — they are still concerned with the flies and odors Thunder Mountain Organics will draw and generate by composting food wastes. After the meeting, his father and neighbor, Jeff Bachman, reiterated concerns about property values.
Bachman said although he appreciated how the Mautzes modified their permit, when it comes to property values, “We take the hit.”
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.