City’s position between a rock and a hard place with Geneva continuesNov 01, 2022 07:32PM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton
By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]
City Hall’s Council Chambers were packed to overflowing in February 2020 for a Planning Commission public hearing regarding Geneva Rock. The company had applied for a rezone from agricultural to manufacturing to expand their operations at the Point of the Mountain. The majority of people in attendance voiced a resounding “no” to Geneva’s request citing concerns about dust, flooding, erosion, environmental and scenic preservation.
Kris Olszewski spoke at that meeting. She indicated there was pumice dust all over her house and that she frequently has to change her furnace filters from living near Geneva’s Point of the Mountain quarry. “This is no different than me buying a commercial property zoned for two stories and asking the city for eight stories. In 40 years, that’s a whole mountain that has gone away. Mountains don’t grow back. In 40 years, Geneva has yet to revegetate,” she said.
That night, the Planning Commission forwarded a unanimous negative recommendation to Draper’s City Council. A special public meeting was scheduled for March 25, 2020 for the council to vote on the matter, but the city declared a State of Emergency March 12 because of Covid. The meeting never took place and the council’s decision was postponed indefinitely.
Draper’s council knew they were in a difficult position if they didn’t try to negotiate with Geneva Rock because of House Bill 288, passed by the Utah Legislature and signed by the governor in 2019, allowing the state to supersede local authority if the city and Geneva Rock couldn’t come to a mutually agreeable solution. HB 288 also restricts cities from initiating new regulations that limit mining operations.
In August of this year, Draper City notified residents that Geneva had submitted an application to the Utah Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining (DOGM) to expand their mining operations in Draper. The city’s notice indicated that public comments could be submitted to DOGM by a Sept. 12 deadline.
Mayor Troy Walker commented on the matter in mid-September. “Their goal is to show that they are a mining operation, that they are no longer a sand and gravel operation. The way you become a mine is you hit bedrock. You become a mine especially if you extract a mineral. They claim they extract quartz. If they are declared a mine, they are regulated exclusively by DOGM. Due to favorable legislation, they can expand onto property they own. They literally own the face of Steep Mountain,” Walker said.
Walker also noted the current demand for sand and gravel for construction and helping the housing crisis. “Everybody likes cheap gravel. It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that Geneva Rock is doing road projects in our city. We do need the material. It’s can you strike a balance?”
Walker said Geneva didn’t come back to negotiate with the city after that 2020 negative recommendation to the council, that “the ball was in their court,” but Geneva withdrew their application. Walker hoped that the city could still negotiate with Geneva and that the public would understand the potential benefit to a negotiation versus the risk of having a judge decide.
“Is there a reasonable deal we could strike with them? I think there is. It’s always better to make a deal because you get something from it. We could easily find ourselves in a winner takes all system (in court) and they win. It’s a tough spot for everyone,” Walker said.
On Sept. 26, Draper City notified residents that the city had filed a legal complaint against Geneva Rock. “Draper City is asking the court to reject Geneva’s claim that the operations of its quarry at the ‘Point of the Mountain’ are a protected and expandable ‘vested mining use’…and exempt from Draper’s long-established zoning ordinances that limit Geneva’s expansion of quarry operations within Draper. Draper City asserts that Geneva’s operations at the Point of the Mountain quarry do not meet the definition in Utah Code of ‘vested mining use’ and Geneva must comply with Draper’s zoning laws. Draper City is asking the court to rule that Geneva has no ‘vested mining use’ and issue an injunction that prohibits Geneva from beginning land disturbing activities on its proposed expansion…” the notice said.
Following the legal complaint filed by Draper City, neither the city nor the mayor would comment further on the matter.