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Geneva Rock expansion hit with negative recommendation from Draper Planning Commission

Packed crowd decries dust, pollution from expanded mining operations

Trucks are pictured Geneva Rock at Point of the Mountain in Draper on Monday, July 30, 2018. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

DRAPER — Geneva Rock’s Point of the Mountain operations were caught between a rock and a hard place Thursday night after the Draper City Planning Commission unanimously voted to give a negative recommendation to all aspects of its application to expand.

Despite the negative recommendation from the five commission members present, the Draper City Council will still vote on the application sometime in March.

“This is one step in the process and we are looking forward to continuing the effort,” said Dave Kallas, a spokesman for Geneva, following the meeting. “We believe it to be a good and fair compromise.”

During a planning commission meeting that lasted late into Thursday night, hundreds of Draper residents packed city hall to voice their opposition.

“This is something that the residents of Draper are not interested in,” said Chad Smith from Draper. “In an ideal world, any appeal for expansion would be denied.”

Dust was the main concern of most residents who spoke during the public comment period, with some people complaining that they can’t walk in their neighborhood or even open up their homes without the particles drifting out from the quarry being an issue.

“I can’t open my windows, I change my furnace filter every single month,” said Kris Olszewski, who also addressed the environmental impact of the mine. “Mountains don’t grow back. You can plant a new tree. You can’t plant a new mountain.”

“We always loved Draper,” said Dianne Hooper, a Draper resident who lives at the foot of the Point of the Mountain. “But the more research that I do the more afraid I get from letting the mine expand ... we already have trouble with pollution in the state.”

Submitted in early February, Geneva’s most recent application seeks to rezone 27 acres along the Draper-Lehi border for mining, and set aside an additional 50 acres for potential future development.

The application would also deed 43 acres to Draper, which the city would use for open space or public parks. An additional 20 acres of designated open space would stay in Geneva’s ownership.

Kallas told the Deseret News that the newest application came after months of speaking with Draper officials, residents and area stakeholders.

But almost no one spoke in favor of the proposed expansion, including members of the planning commission.

“I don’t see my quality of life getting any better,” said Andrew Adams, chairman of the planning commission.

“We have led the charge, we are fighting this, and Geneva is sticking it to us,” said Mary Squire, another member of Draper’s Planning Commission.

A common criticism directed toward those opposing the Geneva proposal is that the operations at the Point of the Mountain, particularly the Hanson Pit, preceded the neighborhoods that now sit up against the mine.

But many Draper residents pushed back at that argument Thursday night, claiming the mine has grown far bigger than they had ever thought it would.

“We need to get our priorities straight. Geneva’s profitability should not be allowed at everyone else’s expense,” said Dr. Brian Moench, board president at Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and a vocal critic of Geneva’s expansion. “Not only will the dust from Geneva effect Draper, but it will spread to the entire valley.”

The mining company sought a similar expansion in 2018, but when Geneva representatives presented a different plan to the Draper City Council than what was initially submitted, Mayor Troy Walker told them to either bring forward the initial application or start the process all over, which Geneva ultimately did.

While the Draper City Council can still veto rezoning requests, like Geneva’s application, a bill passed by the Utah Legislature in 2019 restricts municipalities from making certain decisions regarding mining and other “critical infrastructure materials” within city limits.

HB288, signed by Gov. Gary Herbert last March, halted a unanimous City Council vote in 2019 to restrict mining within certain parts of Draper. Going forward, it would be illegal for Draper to make similar amendments, but council members can still be the arbiters of land use allotments and rezoning requests.

During the public comment period, River, a 9-year-old Draper boy, addressed the planning commission.

“I’m here on behalf of all the children in Draper,” he said, “and I want to grow up to be proud of Draper.”