In wake of appeals court ruling on asphalt plant, residents opposing a similar project hope for the best | MyWindsorNow.com

In wake of appeals court ruling on asphalt plant, residents opposing a similar project hope for the best

Tyler Silvy
tsilvy@greeleytribune.com

When a Colorado Court of Appeals panel ruled against Weld County commissioners and the concrete and asphalt plant they approved near Johnstown, nearby residents celebrated.

It was the day before Thanksgiving, and families gathered in their homes for the holiday less than a mile from the project they had fought for two years. Their victory gave them an extra reason to smile.

Residents 15 miles to the north, near Colo. 14 and Colo. 257, followed the battle closely, and if they celebrated the residents' victory, they aren't saying, but they will say it gave them hope. They've got their own fight to win, and there's no telling whether that appeals court ruling will help in this new fight against a familiar foe: an asphalt plant seeking a permanent location near Colo. 14 and Colo. 257.

"Some of my friends and I here have talked about that, and we're really not sure," Bill Lentz said with a laugh. "I'm not sure there's a direct parallel. We hope this would cause the commissioners to ask this plant to relocate."

Simon Contractors has hope, as well. The company very much would like to make a permanent home at the site, about 8 miles north of Windsor, after building a temporary plant, and they'll appeal to those same Weld County commissioners today in an effort to make it happen. As was the case near Johnstown, there are dozens of residents opposed to this project. Objections range from traffic to air quality to water quality to quality of life. The basic point: This plant doesn't belong here.

Lentz, who has lived in the area more than a quarter century, found allies in new, nearby residential developments, landowners and a ditch company with leaders who worry about water quality for a ditch that snakes close to the plant before providing water to irrigate thousands of acres of farmland out east.

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People here have talked about their readiness for a protracted legal battle the likes of which residents near Johnstown won this past fall. There's no commitment yet, but they have hired a public relations and marketing veteran in Melissa Katsimpalis, a move even Johnstown residents didn't make.

Then there's Nels Nelson, who owns the land upon which the now-temporary plant sits. He makes more money leasing 30 acres to the company than he would farming the same plot. For Nelson, if an asphalt plant is safe for his family it should be safe for everyone else.

Nelson doesn't buy the "bad location" argument either, saying the site once was home to stockyards for the railroad and adding that asphalt plants have dotted the area before.

He said neighbors haven't talked to him during this process, even though he's shared a neighborhood with some for years.

Nelson's neighbors say there's nothing personal in their fight against Simon Contractors and Nelson, they just don't understand his thinking in this case.

"We've been next door to the Nelson family for a long time now," Tom Moore said. "The Nelsons are great people, salt of the earth."

Moore's family has 100 years of history in this area, and although he agrees there have been asphalt and concrete plants here in the past, he said those were temporary. Plus, the area has changed, adding residential plots as growth booms in nearby municipalities such as Fort Collins, Severance and Windsor.

For Lentz and others, that's an important point.

"Back at that time, there was nobody out here," Lentz said. "This was almost desolation central. What happened in 1970 I don't think applies here at all."

Neighbors near the Johnstown plant made many of the same arguments, with residential properties, a wedding venue and an organic farm surrounding the Martin Marietta Materials project there. In the end, the appeals court panel based its ruling on a failure to prove the company could comply with noise regulations.

Simon Contractors representatives couldn't be reached for comment, but they've had a month to build their case after commissioners pushed the matter back.

They'll have the chance to respond to thousands of pages of documents neighbors have submitted, documents that touch on everything from health concerns to the appropriateness of the location.

For Lentz, it's an easy decision.

"It's Weld County; we have a lot of land," Lentz said. "I think they can find some place that's better to operate."

— Tyler Silvy covers government and politics for The Greeley Tribune. Reach him at tsilvy@greeleytribune.com. Connect with him at Facebook.com/TylerSilvy or @TylerSilvy on Twitter.

Up next

The Board of Weld County Commissioners will meet at 9 a.m. today, and will likely vote on whether to allow a Simon Contractors asphalt plant to create a permanent presence near Colo. 14 and Colo. 257.