DRAPER, Utah — Geneva Rock is defending a plan to expand a gravel pit mine into Draper, saying it will end up helping the area in the end.
The company’s proposal took harsh criticism from dozens of Draper residents during a Planning Commission meeting Thursday night. They voiced concerns about increase in dust, decrease in air quality, how it would look expanding the mine deeper into a hillside, and more.
Dave and Martha Chapman live in the very last house next to the Salt Lake County Flight Park. It’s also where the Bonneville Shoreline Trail ends — or starts — depending on how you look at it.
“It’s quite a spot,” Martha said, standing in her backyard on Friday. Their property sits right up against Steep Mountain, with a generous view of the Salt Lake Valley.
“It’s a fairyland out here,” Martha said, referencing what the valley looks like at night. “It’s just the prettiest little fairyland when it’s dark, twinkling lights.”
That is, unless the wind and dust starts to kick up. Martha and Dave explained that can happen a lot in the heat of the summer.
“It’s a fine dirt that gets on everything,” Martha said.
They said the dust and dirt blows over from Geneva Rock, the rock mining company at the end of Steep Mountain.
“It’s a perfect storm of very, very bad conditions,” she said. “For your lungs, for your house, for your kids—and eating dirt.”
The couple also said they often hear and feel large booms from the quarry.
Both times, residents spoke out in opposition to the plans.
“Do we need to take that value and dig a hole in the ground for gravel? Versus finding gravel somewhere else,” Marth said.
Thursday night, Geneva Rock came back to the table with another plan.
They requested to change the land use and re-zone 60 acres on Steep Mountain from residential, to parks and open space.
Geneva Rock said they would donate more than 40 of those 60 acres to the City of Draper for future conservation or park use.
The company asked to re-zone another 27 acres from residential, to manufacturing. According to the plan, the land would be used for basic industry and mineral extraction.
Geneva Rock spokesperson Dave Kallas said this plan is different than the previous requests because it’s a 65% reduction in the mining area, and includes the land donation for conservation, open space and trails.
“This comes after months of meeting with stakeholders, residents, city officials, coming up with a solution that we all felt was best,” Kallas said.
He said the mine expansion would allow them to dig into what’s called the “Lehi high wall,” a steep slope of of rock benches in one of the hillsides.
If the plan is approved, he said Geneva Rock would finish mining in that section in a matter of a few years. Then, he said the company would re-vegetate and restore the area.
“Geneva will be able to lay down that slope to a more natural slope that fits in with the topography of the area,” he said. Then he said, they would, “re-soil it, re-seed it and it will blend in. It will be contoured to match surrounding areas and the mountains nearby.”
As far as the dust complaints, Kallas said state agencies regulate air quality, and they require Geneva Rock to have a fugitive dust plan.
He said Geneva Rock meets the requirements of that plan, and that they recently spent $30 million on dust control and emissions reductions.
Dave and Martha explained they still end up with layers of dust outside and inside their home.
The couple would rather not see the expansion move forward.
The Draper City Planning Commission shared the same opinion, and voted Thursday night on a negative recommendation to the City Council.
Geneva Rock’s request now heads to the City Council. A Draper City spokesperson said the council could look at it in March, but it is not yet on the schedule.
“The health and well-being of residents is a top priority,” said Draper City Mayor Troy Walker, in a press release. “We are committed to an open and transparent process where residents have an opportunity to provide meaningful input during the review of any application we receive. We must balance public input with the technical assessments of subject-matter experts and the established rights of a private property owner.”