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Neighbors seek cleanup of dirt and rock storage area

by Christy Chalmers, staff writer

A “historical” Foothill Road dirt pile’s days may be numbered.

Annoyed by dust and traffic that comes with the dirt and rock that is stored at 1075 Foothill Road, residents of two neighboring subdivisions have asked Douglas County leaders to force the property’s owner to clean up the site. More than three dozen residents of the Sierra Ranchos and Sierra Country estates subdivisions signed petitions complaining of dust, traffic and potentially lower property values because of the site.

They want the county to shut down the site, levelling an inactive gravel pit and restoring the property to a condition that matches the surrounding residential area. They have the support of at least one county commissioner, Don Miner.

“It is no place for this type of activity any longer,” Miner said during an Aug. 3 hearing. “You cannot let this thing continue as a health hazard as it is.”

But county attorneys say the county can’t necessarily shut it down. The site has historically been used as a gravel pit and for dirt and rock storage, and Community Development Director Bob Nunes said that gives it status as a “non-conforming use,” the name given to enterprises that predate current zoning rules.

Nunes noted the property’s owners, Roland and Joan Dreyer, have reduced the dirt piles, limited activity and provided dust control in the past. A county memo says the Dreyers are willing to work on reducing the amount of dirt and rock now stored at the site, but Joan Dreyer also reminded the commissioners the site’s use dates to before 1921.

“We have a right, I believe, to leave our dirt where we want to,” she said.

Some commissioners said they hope the sides can reach a compromise without extensive legal or administrative meddling.

“I think there is a will to at least level this off over time,” said Commissioner Steve Weissinger.

“I think we can try to work this out,” said Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen.

Commissioner Bernie Curtis told Nunes to ask state environmental protection officials to visit the site and measure the dust to see if it creates a health hazard. Nunes said there’s “no guarantee” a site visit will bring enforcement action from the environmental officials, but said he would contact them.