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1984 case ‘profound’ precedent to save Carpenter, neighborhood from ILC

Teri Paul

The details of a 1984 lawsuit to stop industrial activities next to the Montview neighborhood in northwest Cortez have recently come to light. The significance of this 1984 court case on the current issue, that of rezoning the Independent Log Co. property at 1050 Lebanon Road from commercial to industrial, is profound. This case provides a strong precedent in favor of keeping industrial activities well away from people’s homes.

In this case, the court upheld the city’s decision to revoke the building permit for a concrete hot-mix plant on a property less than 100 yards north of the controversial logging company property today. The court agreed with the city of Cortez that this industrial activity was too close to a residential area.

This 40-year-old lawsuit provides the city with the legal standing to deny the application for rezoning and deny the application for a conditional-use permit. The current situation is even more compelling than that of the 1984 lawsuit because ILC shares approximately 550 feet of fence line with residential property in the same Montview neighborhood, and 1,100 feet of fence line with the Carpenter Natural Area.

It is important to realize that denying rezoning from commercial to industrial while approving a conditional-use permit on commercially zoned land, turns that commercial property into industrial by default. The city planning department has said that if the property stays commercial, but a conditional-use permit is issued, the only thing that ILC would not be allowed to do on the property is to store firewood. Any other manufacturing the owners have asked to do would be allowed.

Neighbors and Friends of Carpenter is a group of residents and users of Carpenter Natural Area that was formed in response to the threat to their neighborhood. These volunteers have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to fight rezoning and they have provided the city with this due diligence in locating the 1984 case. They also located a key supporting document, the city’s own record of the 1983 Cortez City Board of Adjustments Appeals Proceedings.

This document shows the BOAA recommended that the city revoke the building permit, for the concrete hot-mix plant, for the same reasons the Neighbors and Friends of Carpenter oppose the rezoning and conditional-use permit today – namely noise, odor, vibrations, dust, potential hazards and adverse visual impact to residents. To this list, they add the unsightliness of the logging operation and opening the property up to even more inappropriate industrial activities in the future.

The 1984 lawsuit provides a precedent for the current issue and gives the city the legal standing to vote “no” on rezoning and vote “no” on the conditional-use permit. The Cortez City Council should use it to end this question for the last time. Let us not ask residents to fight this battle again in another 40 years.

Teri Paul has been a resident of the Four Corners for 27 years and of Cortez for eight years. She is a volunteer for Carpenter Natural Area.