Creation of a zoning district for aggregate operations in Tooele County, Utah

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Under pressure to restrict aggregate operations, county leaders in Tooele, Utah developed an ordinance to protect the stone, gravel, and sand industry as well as the environment.

Between 1990 and 2000, the population of Tooele, Utah, increased 51.3 percent to 40,735. As demand for construction and aggregate increased, the expanding neighborhoods began encroaching on aggregate operations. The new residents considered the appearance, noise, dust, and traffic associated with the aggregate operations and the odors from the asphalt plants to be a nuisance.

Location of Tooele County, Utah. Image Credit: R. Blauert

Figure 1: Location of Tooele County, Utah. Image Credit: R. Blauert

Pressure was brought to bear on operators and county leaders to restrict operations. The situation reached critical limits in the late 1990s when residents, producers, and the county became entangled in litigation. During 2001, the Tooele County Commission approved the addition of “Chapter 27 - Mining, Quarry, Sand and Gravel Excavation Zone (MG-EX)” to its Uniform Zoning Ordinance. The new zoning district allows and protects the crushed stone and sand and gravel industry and also protects the environment. The zone was designed to assure that aggregate operations do not impact adjoining uses and are not encroached upon by surrounding non-compatible land uses, such as residential development.

This approach provides public input and includes strict requirements for the application, operation, and reclamation of pits or quarries. Once the zoning is in place the process of getting final approvals for operation is streamlined, and producers are assured the opportunity for continual operation (renewable every 5 years), as long as they follow best management practices. The advantage is that aggregate extraction and related activities are separated from other non-compatible land uses. The ordinance has been presented to other jurisdictions to consider as a model for creating new mineral extraction zones.

Additional Information

Case study from: Langer, W.H., Drew, L.J, Sachs, J.S. 2004. Aggregate and the Environment, p.54. Published by the American Geosciences Institute Environmental Awareness Series. Click here to download the full handbook.