Mining ordinance passes first hurdle |

Mining ordinance passes first hurdle

A sign is seen off of Eldon Wy. at the junction with East Valley Rd. Friday.
Brad Coman |


What: Douglas County Planning Commission

When: 1 p.m. Tuesday

Where: 1616 Eighth St. Minden

A new ordinance to limit sub-surface mining to general industrial areas passed its first reading 3-2 on Thursday. The ordinance goes before Douglas County Planning Commissioners on Tuesday.

Several ranchers came out to Thursday’s meeting saying they were never informed the county planned to alter the ordinance.

Bently Ranch Manager Matt McKinney said that the ranch moves more than 1,000 cubic yards a month on several parcels.

“A thousand cubic yards isn’t very much, it’s 6 inches of dirt over the area of an acre,” he said.

Resident Sue Parkhurst said she and her sisters inherited a 40-acre parcel surrounded by BLM land, which is home to the Utopian Mine.

“This strikes us as a taking issue,” Parkhurst said. “We would like some time to determine what our options are.”

East Valley residents requested that an ordinance be enacted to prevent mining operations like the one proposed by Douglas County Sewer District No. 1 that started a two-year fight, which ended in the district being dissolved by the Legislature.

Commissioners Steve Thaler and Nancy McDermid voted against introducing the ordinance, saying it should have gone to the planning commission first.

Planning commissioners are scheduled to hear the new ordinance at their regular meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Planning Commissioner Frank Godecke said he disagreed with the ordinance saying it interfered with agricultural property rights.

“Farmers had the right to mine material and sell it,” Godecke said. “Stoddard Jacbosen sold material for Highway 395. This process worked through the special use permit. The planning commission killed the gravel pit. I know we have a lot of Republicans in Douglas County who are good fiscal conservatives, who when it comes to property rights they are a bunch of closet socialists.”

Commissioners Steve Thaler said he received 30 emails from residents to approve the rule.

Community Development Director Mimi Moss said it was possible the county could extend noticing requirements in areas where residents are more spread out.

Moss said there are a few approved mining operations in the county, like the Bing Pit, which is still in operation.

She said that staff was asked to bring the ordinance to the county commission first.

“I don’t think any question mining is an industrial use, that type of zoning should be used for that type of operations,” Commissioner Dave Nelson said.

He said gravel mining could affect property values for three miles around the area. He agreed extending the noticing radius seems justified by that.

“I definitely think a quarter of a mile is totally inadequate for noticing industrial use,” he said.

County Manager Larry Werner said the process while different from the traditional was viable.

Resident Dan Greenlee urged commissioners to approve the ordinance.

“I think people would appreciate some consistency that their property values will remain high,” he said.

Rancher Clarence Burr said no one asked him before they moved in next to him.

“Think real hard about whether you want to keep agriculture here,” he said.

East Valley resident Bob Ballou thanked the county for bringing the ordinance forward.

“I want to make sure I don’t go on vacation one day and come home to find a 10-foot shovel on the end of an excavator digging up the land near my home,” he said.