After a lengthy public hearing and an unscheduled executive session, the Boulder County Planning Commission still had yet to make a recommendation late Wednesday about CEMEX’s application to continue mining at the Dowe Flats Quarry for another 15 years.
The Planning Commission provides recommendations to the Boulder County Board of County Commissioners, which will make the final determination on the matter.
A global building materials company, CEMEX operates 10 cement plants and about 50 cement terminals across its U.S. network that extends to Boulder County.
Unless extended, CEMEX’s permit for the Dowe Flats Quarry, which is north of Colo. 66 and east of Lyons, will expire later this year.
County staff recommended that the Planning Commission support CEMEX’s mining extension application with conditions.
“I’m not sure how or why planning staff would recommend this deal be accepted given all of the public feedback they received against it,” Sarah Lorang, who is a member of the community group Good Neighbors of Lyons, said during Wednesday’s virtual public hearing. “I’m pleading to you, the Planning Commission, to hear the community’s overwhelming feedback that CEMEX’s application be rejected.”
In 1994, the Board of County Commissioners granted CEMEX a special use permit to mine at the Dowe Flats Quarry for a “maximum 25-year mining period,” according to a staff memo.
Since then, the agreement has allowed the company to extract roughly 760,000 tons of materials each year, which it then transports to its cement plant south of Colo. 66.
CEMEX’s existing mining permit is for a 1,810-acre area but would reduce its boundary to 709 acres under its proposed application.
CEMEX has agreed to shutter its cement plant at the same time its mining operation would conclude in 2037, should its 15-year extension be approved.
Without that concession, county staff maintained that CEMEX could continue to operate its cement plant indefinitely.
Commissioners questioned how CEMEX would be able to operate its cement plant without an accompanying mining operation.
Mark Davies, CEMEX director of aggregate and cement resources, said materials could be trucked in from other locations but it isn’t immediately clear from where specifically.
Planning staff and CEMEX officials insisted that the application before the Planning Commission on Wednesday was for CEMEX’s mining operation at the Dowe Flats Quarry, not its cement plant across the highway.
“Another one of the main reasons, of course, for extending the life of the Dowe Flats Quarry is preserving jobs at the quarry site itself,” Davies said. “They’re jobs that most communities would be proud to have, and we would be proud to extend and preserve those jobs for an additional 15 years.”
When asked how many local jobs the quarry produced, Davies said it had about 10 employees, two of whom lived in Boulder County.
In its referral comments, the town of Lyons asked the Planning Commission to recommend denial of CEMEX’s application.
If the commission didn’t deny it outright, the town of Lyons requested a five-year extension be granted, at most, with assurances that CEMEX discontinue its cement plant and mining operations immediately after.
“The community closest to Dowe Flats is the Shady Lane Mobile Home Park. That means its marginalized residents are closest to the fugitive dust storms,” Lyons Mayor Hollie Rogin said during Wednesday’s public hearing. “As in many communities, the poorest and most marginalized residents live closest to the biggest polluters.”
Shortly before 8:20 p.m., the Boulder County attorney’s office recommended the Planning Commission enter an executive session to discuss undisclosed legal issues that came up during the hearing.
As of 9:20 p.m. the commission had exited executive session and returned to the original meeting but had not yet reached a decision by print deadline.