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Two years after trying to expand Point of Mountain quarry, Geneva Rock is back

In early February the mining and gravel company submitted an application to expand operations in Draper

SHARE Two years after trying to expand Point of Mountain quarry, Geneva Rock is back
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Delane Barrus walks in the foothills near his Lehi home that is near a huge rock cliff created by Geneva Rock’s gravel operations on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

DRAPER — City officials are gearing up for another vote on a proposed expansion of the gravel quarry at Point of the Mountain on the border of Utah and Salt Lake counties.

And Draper resident Adrian Dybwad says worried residents are ready to let the Draper Planning Commission know how they feel about Geneva Rock’s latest proposal.

“We’re going to have hundreds of people there,” said Dybwad. “And that’s going to send a clear message to them that they better be very careful with their choices.”

Geneva Rock Products submitted an application to expand in early February, the latest attempt by the Utah gravel and mining company to ramp up operations along the Wasatch Front.

The Draper Planning Commission will consider the rezoning request on Thursday before the application goes to the City Council. If approved, the application would give Geneva a green light to mine 27 acres along the Draper-Lehi border, and set aside 50 acres for potential future development.

The application also includes almost 65 acres designated for open space, 43 of which would be handed over to Draper. The remaining 20 acres would stay in Geneva’s ownership.

“Geneva Rock’s current application to Draper city comes after spending many months meeting with city officials, residents, and area stakeholders to listen to their ideas and develop a fair compromise,” said Dave Kallas, a spokesman for Geneva Rock.

Kallas added that the mining expansion will allow Geneva Rock to remove the “high wall,” a steep dirt wall visible from Interstate 15. The removal of the wall would prepare Geneva for further expansion into Lehi.

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A huge rock cliff created by Geneva Rock’s gravel operations looms in the background near a Lehi subdivision on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

In a statement to Deseret News, Draper Mayor Troy Walker said his city “is committed to an open and transparent process where residents have an opportunity to provide meaningful input.”

Geneva Rock sought a similar expansion in 2018, but its application hit a roadblock during a City Council meeting when Geneva presented a different proposal than what was initially submitted. The council told Geneva to either present its original proposition or start the application process all over. Geneva withdrew its application.

Then a month later, the council voted unanimously to restrict all mining within city limits, quashing any hopes Geneva had at the time to expand its Draper operations.

While Geneva representatives called the move “upsetting,” many in Draper celebrated.

But then state lawmakers passed a law in March 2019 that prohibits cities from enacting any new regulations that limit mining operations. So the 2018 Draper vote has not gone into effect.

The mining company is a point of contention in the growing city, with residents concerned about Geneva’s continued expansion and the health implications caused by the dust blowing off of the Point of the Mountain.

Kallas told the Deseret News that ”Geneva Rock will continue to abide by all state air quality requirements.”

But the dust blowing from the gravel pit and into nearby neighborhoods prompted hundreds of people to show up and protest Geneva at the 2018 Draper City Council meeting.

Dybwad lives on the other side of the ridge from the quarry, and said on windy days, which are frequent at Point of the Mountain, his neighborhood is coated in dust.

“There’s dust on the cars, there’s dust on all the buildings,” he said. “Sometimes when you’re walking you actually feel the grit in your teeth.”

Geneva’s application caught the attention of Dr. Brian Moench, board president at Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, a nonprofit that has been vocal in its opposition to the quarry.

“The dust from their operation has all the health consequences that any other source of air pollution would have,” said Moench, adding that the dust contains toxic heavy metals like uranium and arsenic.

Moench said he has received scores of complaints from people living near the Point of the Mountain who claim the dust has a noticeable effect on their breathing.

“As the area transitions into the showcase business and residential jewel of the Salt Lake Valley, Geneva’s dust will become increasingly incompatible with that vision,” he said.

“You don’t mine within a residential area,” said Delane Barrus, a Lehi resident. “It really isn’t something we do in most First World countries.”

Barrus lives in Traverse Mountain, a Lehi neighborhood backed up against the high wall area of Geneva’s Point of the Mountain operation. Like Dybwad, he is constantly battling dust on his property.

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A huge rock cliff, left, created by Geneva Rock’s gravel operations looms in the background as Delane Barrus talks about the gravel project from the end of the subdivision where he lives in Lehi on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

“We get dust in our house, it lands on our furniture and lands on top of our stuff,” said Barrus, who thinks his son’s asthma is a result of growing up near the gravel pit.

Barrus said it’s frustrating that despite being affected by Geneva’s potential expansion, Lehi City Council members and their constituents have no say in the proposal.

“I would be so happy if they vote no” he said. “If this doesn’t stop, it’ll keep happening over and over and over.”

In a statement to the Deseret News, Lehi Mayor Mark Johnson said the city “is aware of the application to Draper city but we have little information to offer other than to say we have had frequent assurances from Geneva that they intend to hold to our existing excavation agreement.”