For more than three years, Transit Mix Concrete Company has sought to open a rock aggregate quarry on the Hitch Rack Ranch south of the city. The controversial project was passionately opposed by nearby residents and landowners while drawing support from Colorado Springs business interests as well as elected officials.
The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board first rejected the original mining plan in 2016, and the board nixed an amended version on April 26 of this year.
Will Transit Mix try once more to grab the brass ring? That seems unlikely since its parent company, Continental Materials Corporation, appears to be moving on.
On May 15, the company released its unaudited first quarter results.
“The current year quarter includes the write-off of $6,934,000 ($5,201,000 net of tax benefit) of deferred development costs associated with a mining property for which the Company had applied to the state of Colorado to obtain mining permits,” the company reported. “After the permits were denied by the Reclamation Mining and Safety Division (DRMS) of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources in 2016, the Company was invited to resubmit its request and address concerns raised during the first application hearing. On April 26, 2018, despite the recommendation of the DRMS staff to approve the application as submitted, the permit was denied again by the voting committee members. The Company has not yet received final written notice of the decision, but has written-off all related capitalized amounts as of March 31, 2018.”
Such write-offs can signal the abandonment of a project, as local attorney and resident coalition representative Bruce Wright noted in an email to quarry foe Warren Dean.
Wright wrote on May 22 that the application costs were previously capitalized, which would be required if they were going forward with the quarry, but have now been written off, which could only be done if they are abandoning plans.
The Colorado State Land Board owns the mineral rights to the proposed quarry. The lease agreement with Transit Mix called for, on April 14, 2017, a nominal rental fee of $2,598 annually and an advance royalty payment of $200,000. Transit Mix asked for and received a one-time waiver of the payment. In April 2018, $200,000 was due. As of late May, no payment had been made.
Ranch owner Cindi Allmendinger confirmed that the Transit Mix contract to extract minerals has expired.
“They were great business partners, fair and honest,” Allmendinger wrote in an email. “Whether you like mining or not, they are trying to do the right thing. … I am absolutely open to working with them anytime in the future and look forward to hearing from them if they have a new idea. …
“I guess it’s no surprise that as soon as my agreement with Transit Mix ended I heard from all kinds of people with plans for the ranch. We have just started the process of looking at the possibilities but I can tell you that whatever we do must be a positive step forward for us. I lived there for many years and raised my family there. The kids and I still spend time there. Owning the Hitch Rack is far from a hardship so I don’t feel like we have to jump at some ridiculous offer. We have already addressed some of those low offers by thanking them for their interest and then we have moved forward to talk with other interested parties.”
Warren Dean, a nearby resident who was one of the leaders of the opposition, was hopeful and conciliatory.
“Cindi has been a great neighbor for all of these years,” Dean said. “If the quarry project isn’t going forward, I hope that people interested in the preservation of the ranch as open space or wildlife conservation area can form a coalition, and work with Cindi to come to an equitable purchase or long-term agreement.”
Neighboring landowners include El Pomar Foundation, which is the beneficiary of a trust established by Ingersoll Ranch owner Harold Ingersoll, who died in 2015, and the Nature Conservancy, which manages the adjoining 1,621 acre Aiken Canyon Preserve under a 99-year conservation trust agreement. Both organizations had strongly opposed the quarry proposal.
Environmentalists opposed to the quarry had suggested consolidating the Hitch Rack with Aiken Canyon and the Ingersoll Ranch to form a multi-thousand-acre protected open space.
El Pomar representatives had no comment, while Lindsay Schlageter, the Conservancy’s marketing and media relations manager, had not responded as of press time.
Looking back at the years-long Hitch Rack application process — and his company’s ultimate failure — Transit Mix CEO Gary Schnabel acknowledged the difficulty of developing new mines in populated areas.
“We’ve spent a great deal of money [on the project],” he said. “It’s more and more difficult to permit. We believe that it should be difficult and arduous, but not impossible.”