JOHNSTON, CO – Johnstown residents scored a monumental victory on Monday when the Larimer County District Court ruled in favor of residents who opposed Coulson Excavating Company’s efforts to operate an industrial open pit gravel mine in a residential neighborhood east of I-25 and south of U.S. 34.
For the past year and a half, the nonprofit Thompson Area Against Stroh Quarry (TAASQ) and a group of 6 homeowners who live in the 1,000-resident Thompson Crossing and Thompson River Ranch neighborhoods have been challenging the Larimer County Board of County Commissioners’ decision to approve a Use by Special Review (USR) permit which would have allowed Coulson to operate an open pit gravel mine in a residential neighborhood that is zoned for agriculture. TAASQ argued that the industrial mine was incompatible with the surrounding area and should not have been approved. TAASQ further argued they were deprived of their right to a fair proceeding, which is guaranteed by the due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the Colorado Constitution, when Commissioner Tom Donnelly accepted substantial campaign contributions from Coulson while Coulson’s USR application was pending before the Board, but then failed to recuse himself from participating in the proceeding. Commissioner Donnelly cast the deciding vote in favor of the proposal, which was approved by a split 2-1 vote of the County Commissioners in March 2018.
On Monday, a Larimer County District Court judge ruled that Commissioner Donnelly’s actions violated the due process rights of the TAASQ plaintiffs and that the Board of County Commissioners must hold a new hearing on Coulson’s USR application, with Commissioner Donnelly recusing himself from participating in any further discussions or votes on the application.
Mark Lacis and James Silvestro, attorneys with the law firm Ireland Stapleton Pryor & Pascoe represented TAASQ in this land use appeal. “This case is proof that when homeowners come together, they can fight against incompatible land use proposals and win. Most importantly, they can hold their elected officials accountable. No one should be able to select their own judge through outsized campaign contributions” said Lacis.
TAASQ President, Dani Korkegi said, “Let this decision serve to show our government that they serve the people and not business. The timing of this application was unfortunate. The two subdivisions that border this quarry are now fully developed. The losses in quality of life and to home values would have been devastating to thousands of homes. We could not have prevailed without the incredible work done by Ireland Stapleton. We are indebted to them.”
It’s unclear whether Coulson or the County will appeal the district court’s decision.