GLENWOOD SPRINGS — After seven hours in front of an overflow crowd, the Garfield County commissioners on Monday postponed deciding on a land-use change for a controversial trash transfer and recycling facility outside Carbondale.
The officials said they want to gather additional information about the plan and allow more public input.
Applicants Mountain Rolloffs Inc. (MRI) and IRMW II LLC touted the proposal as a way to bring 10 to 15 new jobs to the valley, reduce both diesel pollution from fewer truck trips to landfills and the amount of waste going into dumps, and infuse money into the local economy.
Opponents, who based on applause made up the vast majority of attendees, blasted the proposal as ruining Carbondale’s image as an arts and outdoors mecca, endangering students, pedestrians and cyclists on the Rio Grande Trail and motorists on Catherine Store Bridge, and threatening nearby wells and irrigation ditches with pollution. Others said it simply wasn’t the right location.
About 150 people, including many Carbondale residents and employees of applicant MRI, spilled out into the sweltering foyer of the commissioners’ meeting room, and public comment alone lasted more than five hours.
But in the end, the commissioners decided to continue the public hearing. Commissioner Mike Samson said that will allow the board and the companies to study the results of a review of the project by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. He also said he had not had enough time to review the information he just received Monday.
“People want to continue giving us input,” Samson said, before he was joined by the other two commissioners in voting to postpone a decision.
Silt-based MRI and IRMW II LLC are seeking a land-use change permit to allow for the trash transfer and recycling facilities on Catherine Store Road about a mile from Carbondale. The companies want to build the transfer station at the former Mid-Continent coal-loading site, which IRMW II owns, using 5,000 square feet of space in an existing 44,000-square-foot building.
Trash haulers would bring solid waste and recycled material from homes and businesses to the station. There, it would be sorted and then packed into semi-trailers bound — using either Snowmass Drive in Carbondale or Catherine Store Bridge — for the South Canyon landfill or recycling sites in Denver or Phoenix.
MRI estimates that the facility could initially process on a daily basis 100 tons of solid waste between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., and eventually be capable of 300 tons per day.
The ramifications reach as far as Pitkin County, where the landfill director said the new site could drastically impact the facility’s services because drop-off fees, which fund recycling programs, could plummet.
The first “boo” came about 10 minutes into the presentation by Garfield County senior planner Glenn Hartman, who showed a slide of a truck taking up most of the road as it crossed Catherine Store Bridge.
More jeers followed when Larry Green, the attorney for the applicants, said the companies’ mitigation efforts have gone “far beyond” what is required by the county or what has been done by other transfer stations in Colorado.
Four Carbondale town trustees, including Mayor Stacey Bernot, attended the limited impact review hearing. Bernot, mentioning that the town sent a four-page letter to the county urging the commissioners to deny the application, said she and fellow trustees simply didn’t have enough information or time to properly consider the plan.
Bernot said the town wants more details on odor, noise, traffic, visual impacts and other issues.
“We want more information … on how this thing operates,” she said. “And we want to ensure that what lives on, if approved, is enforced.”
But an MRI representative defended the project as being a great asset for the valley and reiterated that the company has gone well above what is required. Among the efforts to show “we care,” he said, is odor control involving a Sonozaire neutralizer that controls smells by converting ozone to oxygen.
MRI currently takes recycling to the Pitkin County landfill and pays to drop it off. The landfill then ships the material to Eagle County, which sends it off to either Denver or Phoenix.
“This transfer site would allow material to be taken directly to market, saving three truck trips,” the representative said. “This facility is being spun into something it’s not.”
MRI general manager Don VanDevender echoed that sentiment, saying a transfer station is not a landfill and cannot turn into one. Nor do such facilities accept hazardous waste, he said. Such material would be sorted out and transported to the city of Glenwood Springs’ South Canyon facility. Trash would not be stored on site for more than 24 hours, VanDevender said, explaining the operation.
“We believe more than 50 percent of construction material from job sites can be removed, eliminating 500 tons annually from landfills,” he said.
Besides new jobs, he said other annual benefits to the valley include 50,000 fewer miles traveled on local roads and 20,000 fewer gallons of diesel used, eliminating 200 tons of carbon emissions.
A woman who lives just down the road from the proposed site, however, said there were “so many reasons why this development would be a travesty.” The entrance to Carbondale is a “lovely, scenic road,” she said, adding that she has a ditch on her property that her children play in and that her family uses for irrigation.
With “liquid waste trickling into my water, showers and drinking water would be directly affected,” she said. “I don’t want it poisoning my family.
“This will destroy our area as we know it,” she finished, drawing applause.
Karen Olson, principal at Crystal River Elementary School, read a statement on behalf of the Roaring Fork School District board that urged the commissioners to consider impacts on her school and Carbondale Middle School. Trash trucks could potentially drive on Catherine Store Road into Carbondale and turn on Snowmass Drive, where they would pass the schools.
MRI officials said they can limit truck trips in the mornings and evenings, but that concession still doesn’t account for the fact that students and parents often leave school in the middle of the day as well, Olson said.
She asked for a 45-minute grace period for times when classes start late and there are evening events because of how much semi-trucks would impact school happenings. She also questioned how long it would take a fully loaded semi to stop even if its driver was obeying the area’s 15-mph speed limit.
“I support the concept of the business but the location is really poor,” Olson said.
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which owns the right of way on the majority of the Rio Grande Trail and maintains it near the proposed site, listed conditions of use for the applicant.
The agency believes that its priority of protecting future transit uses must remain paramount, according to a letter sent to the county that RFTA attorney Walt Mathews read at the hearing.
Given the high number of users, the trail crossing should be designed to minimize conflicts, the letter says, and RFTA’s board also believes the companies should provide funding to improve the bridge.
The hearing was continued to Nov. 19.