Blanding wants a voice in Public Lands Bill process
Aug 21, 2013 | 1553 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Blanding needs to be at the table and have its interests represented,” said Blanding Mayor Toni Turk at the August 13 meeting of the City Council. “If we are not there, we are going to be run over.”

Turk is referring to the process of developing a public lands bill that could impact the millions of acres of Bureau of Land Management ground in San Juan County.

A wide variety of groups have been involved in the development of a bill and Turk wants to insure that Blanding has a place at the table.

Turk continued, “I am very much of the opinion that if we are not careful, the worse case scenario for Blanding is precisely what many other groups want to see. This is to alienate our patrimony and take from us why we like to live here.”

On August 9, Congressmen Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop visited the county with a large group of government, industry and environmental groups.

While the Congressmen held a public meeting and moved on that day, their staff and the other groups stayed for several days. Several field trips visited far corners of the sprawling county.

A Blanding City employee participated in the last day of the field trips, but the city was not directly involved in previous meetings. The Congressmen were not able to meet city officials in a hastily-called separate meeting on August 9.

The Council addressed concerns with a number of ideas that are being proposed by various groups. Turk specifically mentioned the community ties to Elk Ridge and the Abajo Mountains and said he would oppose any proposal that limits access to these areas.

A Diné Bikeyah proposal to create a National Conservation Area (NCA) for Cedar Mesa is also of concern, as are aspects of a proposal to create an Energy Corridor in the Dry Valley area north of Monticello.

Turk said, “The audience (at the August 9 meeting) was assured that we were at the beginning of the discussion phase and that any conclusions were premature.”

“We need to be at the table,” said Blanding City Manager Jeremy Redd. “We need to be looking out for our interests.”

In other matters at the August 13 council meeting, it was reported that culinary water use in Blanding is down 18.1 percent for May, June and July. Raw water use is down 40 percent.

“We are working hard to avoid over-watering,” said Redd.

In the month of July, the city’s three deep wells pumped more than 10 acre-feet of water into the city water supply. Well A was damaged when it was hit by lightning, and it will be about three weeks before it is up and running again.

Because the wells had not been used for several years, it has taken longer than planned to get them operating at full capacity. City officials have said that in the future, they intend to pump each well for a short period of time every year to keep them operating efficiently.

The council approved a new Nuisance Ordinance by a 5-0 vote.

The ordinance creates a nuisance inspector – generally the chief of police – to investigate nuisance claims. The ordinance outlines procedures regarding notices, hearings, findings, recourse, collections, and penalties.

In addition, an ordinance regarding minor variances was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Kelly Laws voting against.

The ordinance allows a variance of up to 10 percent on any one or two requirements with regards to area, lot coverage, width, setback, height or parking

Jeremy Redd said, “This will encourage the development of empty lots in the city, where there is existing infrastructure, but where the lots may have variance issues.”

The Council discussed the issue of tanker trucks that are parked on residential areas of city streets.

U.S. Department of Transportation regulations state that tanker trucks are not to be parked on public streets but should be parked in truck stops or on private property.

In a previous council meeting, the city questioned a section of a Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan that had been developed by the Southeast Utah Association of Governments.

The section opposed the acceptance of any new waste material at the White Mesa Mill. Redd reports that the section regarding the White Mesa Mill has been removed.

The council would like to update the plan to include recent developments, including the Blue Mountain Hospital. Approval of the plan will be an action item in a future meeting.
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