DRAPER — Both of these men see a rezoning proposal as a project that will impact millions of lives in Salt Lake and Utah counties with effects lasting decades.
That much is about all Dave Kallas and Dr. Brian Moench can agree on.
Kallas, the spokesman for Geneva Rock, says a 73-acre proposed extension of its gravel pit operations at Point of the Mountain will provide needed materials for constructing new roads, houses and other buildings along the Wasatch Front over the next 20 years.
Moench, president of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, says the additional gravel pit operation will harm the lungs of millions of residents in the two counties and sap the economic vitality of one of the state's most promising areas for growth.
The city of Draper, where the property is located, will be left sifting through the arguments as it weighs the proposal beginning in late August or early September.
David Dobbins, Draper's city manager, said the city has posted information about the proposal on its website and will conduct a series of public hearings as part of the review of the rezoning application.
Geneva is proposing to forego any mining at Steep Mountain and instead will establish a 78-acre conservation area with an easement granted to Draper or Salt Lake County, Kallas said.
The company will also put in a dirt road and small parking lot to accommodate visitors and hang gliders at the top of the mountain pending county approval and allow Draper to extend its trails network.
Kallas said the move will save both the south and north face of the mountain from any additional mining activity and enhance access for hang gliders and paragliders.
"This secures in perpetuity Steep Mountain as a conservation area. We took a chunk of it that was legally permitted for mining and will leave that alone," he said.
David Shallenberger, president of the Utah Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, said the world-class flying site at Point of the Mountain would receive long-term guarantees under Geneva's rezoning project.
"Our main priority from our hang gliding groups is to do whatever we can to preserve the Point of the Mountain hill where we fly. So far, the Geneva proposal offers a conservation easement and other things that would offer some permanent and long-term protections and would really help our flying community," Shallenberger said.
Kallas said the proposal for additional mining in an area abutting their existing operation is necessary to meet the demand of the explosive growth in Salt Lake and Utah counties.
"We've seen our biggest year every year for several years in a row," he said.
Moench predicts it would be an air pollution nightmare.
"We are not arguing with the need for gravel, but expanding at that geological place at the Wasatch Front ends up being the worst possible place. There are winds that will kick up dust into the atmosphere that blow there 80 percent of the time," Moench said.
Geneva is one of six gravel pits or related material operations at Point of the Mountain.
The company originally sought an extension of its operations in a rezoning application with Draper in 2015. Although the planning commission approved its proposal, Geneva withdrew it amid continuing concerns from the public.
Kallas said since then, Geneva has gathered input to craft a substantially different rezoning request, which if approved will allow its operation to continue for two decades plus.
Moench believes that despite the alterations, Draper should kill the proposal.
"It's a big deal for a lot of reasons. The rezoning is a permission slip to keep mining there for 30 years," he said.
Geneva officials are well aware the proposal is not without controversy for communities and people who would wish away the gravel pit operation to another location, Kallas said.
"We are seeing encroachment on gravel pits throughout the Wasatch Front. People move, communities grow up and they want the pit moved," he said.
Geneva mines where the resource is, and moving it to some more remote location like the western desert is impractical, he added, and would increase the company's carbon footprint.
"The impact would be significant. The costs would skyrocket."
The shift in operations does not require any modification of Geneva's air quality permit with the state because Kallas said Geneva would remain within its operational limit for emissions.
Under the permit, Geneva is able to produce 14 million tons of material and within that, process nearly 11 million tons per year, according to Alan Humphreys with the Utah Division of Air Quality.
The permit allows up to 128.86 tons of PM10, or fine particulate matter, to be emitted each year.
Jay Morris, who oversees compliance on "minor" source operations for the air quality division, said regulators conduct on-site inspections at gravel pits and keep a close watch for dust violations.
"Probably more days than not we have eyes on that site," at Point of the Mountain, he said, noting inspection employees make that drive frequently. "It is pretty rare that we would see something we would stop for."
But Moench said the state air quality permit is not a sufficient yardstick for a clean operation.
"Compliance with state regulations is no barometer as to whether public health is being harmed," he and board members wrote in a letter to Draper officials. "All pollution is harmful to human health, even at levels far below state and federal standards."
Moench said the fine particle pollution from gravel pit operations is dangerous, causing destruction of lung tissue and increasing susceptibility to tuberculous and lung cancer.
"The toxic dust generated will continue for years, but the health consequences will last much longer," the letter states.
Kallas said the company has invested more than $30 million in technology to reduce its emissions footprint, switching its fleet to compressed natural gas vehicles and installing an elaborate conveyor system to minimize internal truck traffic. The expenditure also includes the use of water cannons and sprinklers in its dust suppression operations.
For Moench, it doesn't matter because of what he said is the inappropriate location of the gravel pit in such close proximity to residents and development.
"Someone needs to evaluate the kind of effect this will have on the boon of development that will happen in the area with the opening of the prison site," Moench said, noting plans to relocate the Utah State Prison to the northwest quadrant of Salt Lake City.
"This is the fastest growing area of the Wasatch Front."
Kallas, however, said it is precisely that proximity that drove the location of the gravel pit in the beginning.
"This material is literally being driven down the road to build a home, build a church or a new school. When you are talking about mining building materials, the source of the material needs to be where the community is that is being served. That is the reality. That is why Point of the Mountain became a gravel pit. We needed source material for our customers," he said.
Moench said his organization and other opponents plan to fight the proposal and host town meetings.30 comments on this story
"It will impact everybody in Utah and Salt Lake counties, so it extends far beyond the purview of Draper residents," he said. "Everybody in these counties should be engaged in the issue."
The conflict between gravel pits and residents continues to grow because of development, according to Morris.
"We have been watching this perfect storm for 25 years as Draper continues to expand on the north side and Lehi expands on the south side," Morris said. "They are just building closer and closer to those pits and residents are unhappy about those pits. But without those pits, they would not have the material for their homes."