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Helper panel reviews rock crushing, gravel quarry site proposal

Sun Advocate reporter

A decision from the Helper planning and zoning commission and the subsequent review and final approval from the council regarding a proposed rock crushing and gravel quarry site within the city limits is expected this week.

The outcome will affect not only neighboring Helper city residents, but will determine the course of action for contractor WW Clyde, the company constructing the Helper interchange on U.S. Highway 6.

The Helper planning commission will meet on Aug. 16 and is expected continue discussions regarding a gravel facility which has been proposed on private property along U.S. 6 owned by Bob Hoggatt.

The matter was tabled at an Aug. 2 meeting.

Helper officials are expected to review the matter at a council meeting on Thursday and make the city's final decision.

The proposed site is currently zoned as commercial, where Hoggatt has operated a consignment business in the past.

The proposal includes the disruption of four of 10 acres of property owned by Hoggatt and the operation of a series of rock crushing and sorting machines.

In order to allow the operation, Helper city ordinances would require that the property be reclassified as an industrial zone.

Currently, the only industrial zones in Helper are the railroad lines.

And even if the commission moves forward with the zone change process, the gravel operation may not be allowed.

Dean Armstrong, who sits on the Helper council and the city's planning and zoning commission, said the board is currently looking at changing the permitted activities in the industrial zone.

"We don't feet that those are appropriate activities in the city," said Armstrong.

Under Helper's planning code, activities must be expressly permitted by city ordinance in order to be allowed.

The city's code lists certain activities which are permitted within each zone.

All other activities are considered inappropriate.

Currently, no mechanism is in place in Helper which would allow conditional use permits.

In Carbon's unincorporated areas as well as some cities within the county, conditional use permits are required for certain activities.

For instance, it is normally unlawful for county residents to operate a business out of their homes. However, many homeowners have applied for and received conditional use permits, which would allow the homeowners to transact business at their residences.

In each of the cases, county officials review the effect the business may have on the area such as traffic, noise and potential risks to neighboring residents.

In this type of planning and zoning process, ordinances regarding the various zones list the types of activities which are allowed without a conditional use permit as well as the activities which require a conditional use permit.

Planning officials can only approve a conditional use permit if the activity in question is listed as a conditional use. In Helper, the process is not allowed under the current code.

Zoning ordinances list only approved activities and there is no list of activities requiring conditional use permits.

For property owners in Helper, the situation means that an activity is either allowed or it is not. It also means that property owners are not required to obtain permits for any activity allowed within the zone.

For example, oil and gas drilling and extraction are listed as lawful activities in the industrial zone.

With current wording, Union Pacific or Utah Railway could begin drilling for gas without notifying the city or neighboring property owners.

The only permit necessary would be a building permit for the wellhead.

Armstrong said the planning commission is looking to change that and is moving forward with two proposals which will alter the city's planning code.

The first proposal is to draft and approve a resolution to remove mining, oil and gas extraction, rock and gravel quarry's and similar sites from the list of approved activities in the industrial zone.

The Helper planning commission could have an resolution in hand by mid-September.

The second proposal is to allow conditional use permits, a process which will take more review by the commission.

Each of the activities currently allowed within each zone would have to be reviewed and a determination made whether a permit should be required for the activity or not.

For the Hoggatt property, this means that if the planning commission wishes to allow the gravel site on the property, then the site will need to be rezoned as industrial.

But with the commission planning to remove gravel pits and similar activities from the list of approved activities in industrial zones, a zone change may not be enough for the rock crushing facility to move forward as planned.

During discussions on the proposed rock crushing facility, representatives of WW Clyde indicated that the site was favorable because of its proximity to the construction site and because trucks would not be hauling materials through a residential zone.

If the construction company's proposal is not approved, company representatives said they plan to move forward with one of three other possible sites or select another location in the area.

The three alternate sites are located in Spring Canyon, on Utah Highway 157 to Kenilworth and near Mountain View Cemetery in Helper.

All three of the options involve sending heavy truck traffic through residential zones, something contractors had hoped to avoid.

Still, the company has operated similar sites in or near residential zones. One site is Altamont, where the contractor performed similar road construction.

One of the other concerns is the physical scar which would be left on the landscape.

WW Clyde has a reclamation plan for the site, which includes a regrade of the affected area.

However, as residents pointed out, there are pinion pine trees on the hillside which take decades to grow.

The pines would be difficult to replace and company officials admitted that the contractor's reclamation plan did not address replacing the trees.

Company representatives said they could look at the possibility of adding a tree replacement plan to the reclamation plan, but noted that there would be additional costs associated with such a change.

Given the public comments, and the changes proposed in current zoning ordinances, the planning commission tabled the matter and placed the matter on the Aug. 16 agenda.

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