SUB-LET COUNTY – Neighbors and citizens opposed to the county’s $1 million purchase of undeveloped land on the outskirts of Pinedale are expressing their displeasure with another move.
The “Sublette County Doyle Gravel Mine Petition” garnered 223 signatures from Sublette County residents opposing its future as a 65-acre gravel pit, as well as four email comments and 14 social media replies against the “Doyle Gravel Mine.” ”
According to neighbor Dan Jones, who started the petition campaign, the only question asked was “whether it will bring new jobs.”
“No, it won’t,” he said on Friday because it will be owned by the county.
Jones bought the house at Old Brazzill Ranch nine years ago; neither he nor any of his neighbors knew they would see gravel works instead of wilderness in a still rural, fully irrigated area with four ponds and a spring.
Jones says their homes are between 200 and 3,000 feet from the proposed gravel pit.
In fact, the county purchased the first agricultural property of more than 20 acres 15 years ago, taking center stage in four divisions of homeowners who observed wildlife, cattle, trumpeter swans, and other animals and birds. The GIS map of Sublette County does not indicate that the Doyle sites will become a gravel pit in the future.
“The first shock was when your (newspaper) article came out,” Jones said. “Economic development certainly matters, but we also need to bring quality of life there.”
“The county is implementing a 15-year-old plan without considering 15-year housing changes,” the petition reads.
A gravel pit is a permitted use of agricultural property that does not require notification to neighbors or the public. County officials refused to comply with this notice, and previous executive meetings were vague.
“The focus is on dollars,” Jones said. “But counties are not private enterprises.
They also declined to conduct an assessment, citing instead how much money the county is saving by mining its own gravel.
“They were only interested in money,” Jones said. “They didn’t talk about wildlife, human safety and quality of life. … They didn’t have a net asset value study done. If you don’t plan, study, and think, how can you say you’ll save millions?”
County commissioners learned of the Doyle family’s 40-acre irrigated farm property when highway and bridge inspector Billy Pape notified them that it was up for sale earlier this year. It is adjacent to another agricultural property that the county previously purchased with the intention of using it as a gravel pit.
The two sections face Highway 191 and Pole Creek Road, although their very prominent location south of the city was never specifically named, even when the commission members voted 3–2 to try to buy the second section.
The first site was not developed, although county officials received “full clearance” from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to use the entire site as a gravel pit.
A meeting of commissioners on July 19 was attended by about 25 citizens who spoke out against the purchase, its price, the lack of analysis or evaluation of minerals, the availability and quality of water, wildlife, noise and dust. Panel members went further and approved the purchase 3-2, opposed by panel members Dave Stevens and Doug Vickrey.
“County commissioners approved the mine in closed sessions with the public, with an additional one million state dollars,” the petition reads. Members of the commission met formally at executive meetings to discuss “real estate”.
Two gravel pits that have drawn public complaints and criticism in the county’s conference room are the county’s Bonduran Quarry and the “Busman Quarry”, originally owned by outgoing commission chairman Joel Boseman.
The commissioners have scheduled a public seminar in Bondurant, which is closed from prying eyes, to listen to the concerns of the citizens. The old Boseman Pit, now under a different name, was the subject of many letters to the editor about dust, noise, and traffic in its day.
Jones said he and Dean Boundy’s family, who own part of the original Old Brazzill Ranch and lease the pastures to “the real rancher,” are fighting to overturn the county’s decision, or at least force thoughtful answers to be given that they see as a serious problem.
When asked about noise and visuals for July 22, Pape offered a ledge.
“It’s between the mine and the highway,” Jones said, “which leaves the other three sides open.”
Regarding water management, Pape said a drainage plan will be developed.
“My understanding is that a couple of (current irrigation) ditches will be affected,” Jones said.
Jones and the Boundi family filed a complaint with the Wyoming DEQ demanding an investigation. The petition and comments will be forwarded to Lander’s office, he said.
Jones tried to check how many gravel pits there were in the county, but couldn’t. But, he says, “There are rumors that there are about 200 gravel pits that are private, public, private/public, and public.”
On Tuesday, September 6, public comments will be on the agenda of the Sublette County Board of Commissioners so that citizens can talk about the Doyle Gravel Mine in what they consider to be “a first-class farmland that supports livestock and an abundance of wildlife.”