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First of Dolores mill proposals meets public opposition

John Godbout, who was escorted out of a Montezuma County Commissioner's meeting last week, offered his perspective on the Ironwood Mill permit discussed Tuesday.
Mill to acquire 3-acre parcel of land; neighbors concerned about use

The first of a series of Planning and Zoning permits involving the IronWood Mill in Dolores was unanimously approved at the Montezuma County Commissioner meeting Nov. 9, although it was met with public opposition.

The permit calls for the sale of a 3-acre parcel of land bordering the mill’s property.

Planning and Zoning Director Don Haley said the land would be stand-alone and would not be a part of mill operations at the onset of its incorporation.

Then, the land’s future use would be discussed in conjunction with a proposed amendment to the mill’s high impact/special use permit that would apply to the 3-acre parcel. IronWood proposes to store finished blocks on the land after excavating and filling pits that pose safety hazards, Haley said.

There would no longer be easement access from the current property owner’s land to the mill, which would prevent liability issues, Haley said.

“It’s not extending on for any other rights or uses or conditions of what and how IronWood operates – IronWood just happens to be the agent because they are interested in purchasing that parcel,” he said.

The permit – along with two others that would grant the mill rights to operate 24/7 and provide for building steaming vats to warm frozen logs and for building employee housing – was met with passionate pushback during a Planning and Zoning meeting Oct.14.

After Haley explained the permit to commissioners Nov. 9, six Dolores residents cited concern, urging commissioners to approve the permit with conditions, deny it or table it.

County Administrator Shak Powers asked commissioners for guidance on public comment because the previous meeting was “unruly.” The county also has received several “nasty” phone calls, he said.

Commissioner Jim Candelaria asked the audience to present facts civilly and respectfully.

John Godbout, manager of Circle C RV Park and Campground, returned to address the commissioners after being escorted out of the previous meeting, when proposed changes to the county land use code were presented. Proposals included increasing the nighttime noise threshold – currently 55 decibels – which was stated at an Oct. 26 meeting to be the equivalent to the noise levels a conversation would produce. Godbout made a phone call at the Nov. 2 meeting, hoping to make the point that 55 decibels can be a disturbance.

A Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office deputy escorted him out, and Candelaria said Godbout’s method of making a point was disrespectful.

At the Nov. 9 meeting, Godbout thanked Candelaria for dissuading his “theatrics.”

Godbout called for the 3 acres to be incorporated into the mill’s mitigation plan, which Planning and Zoning commissioners requested be created before mill expansion plans commence.

Other speakers made similar requests and cited issues with light, noise, fear of decreasing property values, and a pile of wood chips, which they believe posed a fire hazard.

“Those concerns haven’t been addressed yet, and adding another 3 acres to it would appear to only compound the problem,” said Dolores resident Mary Ranney.

She also questioned why the land was being rezoned if its future use hadn’t been determined, although Haley later explained that mostly all subdivisions of land require rezoning.

He emphasized that the high impact/special use permit wasn’t yet being reviewed.

“We want the facility to be held accountable before proceeding further,” Ranney said.

Lana Kelly, owner of Circle C RV Park and Campground, said she has put investments into her business on hold because of disturbances from the mill.

She also worried the 3-acre parcel in discussion was the only buffer between her property and the mill, but Haley said the buffer zone from the mill building would not be altered with the subdivision of land.

“I ask that you require them to provide that complete project plan so that we all can know their intentions going forward and avoid needing to frequently meet here and debate their plans. I’m sure you’ve had enough of us, and you’ll be seeing more of us,” said neighboring resident Trent Bishop.

He also asked for a formal outline of how complaints are registered and responded to.

Commissioners agreed they had to evaluate the permit as a split and sale of land, and County Attorney Ian MacLaren said he didn’t think there would be impacts on neighboring properties as a result of its approval.

Commissioners said residents’ concerns would be addressed at meetings about mill expansion and operation.

Candelaria cautioned the mill, saying commissioners would request mitigation plans for permits, and the slash pile was a concern of his as well.

Commissioner Joel Stevenson advised the mill to “be good neighbors.“

Dec 3, 2021
Dolores residents plan to challenge 24/7 operations, housing at IronWood mill