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Gravel firm sues over SF County ordinance

SANTA FE—A company that wants to build and sand and gravel operation on La Bajada Mesa south of Santa Fe has filed a new suit against Santa Fe County, saying the County Commission singled out the proposed mine last year when it placed a moratorium on “developments of countywide impact” like mines and junkyards and that a recently passed ordinance regulating such projects is illegal.

Albuquerque-based Rockology LLC, which wants to extract 250,000 tons of aggregate per year for the next 25 years from a 50-acre parcel on land about a mile east of Interstate 25 near the Waldo exit, has been seeking rezoning of the property to allow the mine to go forward. The property owner, Buena Vista Estates, Inc., is also a plaintiff in the case.

The commission heard hours of public testimony from people opposed to the mine last year before deciding not to take any action. Instead, the commission imposed a 12-month moratorium on issuing development approvals and permits for projects in the “developments of county-wide impact,” or DCI, category.

“The only application that was pending that was impacted by the moratorium” was the La Bajada mining proposal, the new lawsuit states.

Last month, the commission adopted an ordinance that amends the county land use code to create new, stricter regulations for junkyards, landfills and sand and gravel mining operations. Among the new requirements, according to the lawsuit, are that an operation defined as a DCI must now apply for a “DCI Overlay Zoning District” or a DCI conditional use permit. It also contains “extensive regulations” that establish operational, location, reclamation and general standards for sand and gravel operations defined as DCIs.

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“The DCI Ordinance as passed targets the Petitioners’ (Rockology’s) project or is improper downsizing, both of which are illegal and unconstitutional,” the lawsuit alleges.

A spokeswoman for the county said the county does not comment on pending litigation.  Rockology and Buena Vista previously have sued over the moratorium and the County Commission’s failure to take action to the mining plan, and that litigation is still pending.

The proposed mining operation was met with overwhelming public opposition. More than 600 people — the vast majority against the mine — attended one public hearing held at Santa Fe’s convention center to accommodate the large crowd.

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