Routt County composting business gets go-ahead for new site
The Routt County Planning Commission recommended approval of a special-use permit for Cowgirl Compost Co. with a 9-0 vote, and Routt County Commissioners followed through by granting the compost company its permit.
Cowgirl Compost Co. is the sole carbon-negative community compost operation serving residential and commercial customers. The company sought the permit for a solid-waste transfer site that would operate on a 2-acre parcel on Routt County Road 80, just north of Hayden. The permit is needed as the company switches locations, leaving behind the former Bar U Eat site.
The applicant will be leasing the 2-acre parcel from the owner of a larger 52-acre property.
In a presentation to county commissioners, applicant Winn Cowman said the benefits of composting would include treating waste locally, improving soil health and productivity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by keeping food waste out of landfills and creating local jobs.
The company composts food waste collected by mixing it with wood chips using a track loader, and it also hauls all food waste to the site itself.
Cowgirl Compost’s site is registered with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as a conditionally exempt small-quantity compost facility.
CDPHE limits the amount of food waste in process at any given time to 5 cubic yards, per Colorado’s solid-waste regulations. The applicant did note these standards could be subject to change as CDPHE is looking into potentially upping its limit to 20 cubic yards.
Commissioners added a condition to the application mandating that impacts to the site be reevaluated if the CDPHE does make this change.
Potential hours of operation for the site are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is anticipated the site will have two or three part-time employees and/or volunteers. The compost and wood chips will be located to the west of the working area to help screen views from the county road.
The location is on a bluff that drops down to the Yampa River. The closest neighbor is on a hillside approximately 600 feet to the west of the working area. One resident that lives a half-mile east of the site voiced concerns about dust, traffic, odor and rodents. Another area resident expressed similar concerns and said there are better-suited locations elsewhere in Routt County.
Planning Commissioners also had concerns with the possibility of odors emanating from the site and the attraction of rodents and other animals. Planning staff had already received complaints from neighbors of the current operation about the number of birds, raccoons and skunks.
Residents that live near this site would live farther away from the site than the neighbors of the previous site. The closest resident will be the property owner the applicant is leasing from.
Cowman said she had covered the compost piles with tarps to help prevent the animals from being able to access the food waste, but covering compost essentially defeats its purpose of developing into something that aids soil.
A condition of the permit is that all trash and unmixed food waste be stored either inside a garage or inside receptacles certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. Proper composting practices also serve as mitigation efforts. These efforts include immediately mixing food waste with wood chips to get it composting and ensure that the food waste is not just sitting and attracting animals.
Kit Geary is the county, public safety and education reporter. To reach her, call 970-871-4229 or email her at kgeary@SteamboatPilot.com.
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