April 11, 2024

Cemex to continue operating plant as it reviews closure order

LYONS — Cemex Inc. will continue operating its Lyons cement plant for at least the next month as it evaluates Boulder County’s recent order to shutter the facility. 

“Cemex is reviewing the notice issued by Boulder County’s director of community planning and permitting regarding the land use status of our Lyons cement plant and will respond within the next 30 days,” the company said in a statement emailed to BizWest on Thursday. “Cemex will continue to operate the plant under operating conditions, producing high-quality cement without disruption to our hard-working employees or our valued customers.”

Boulder County officials informed the company on Wednesday that the cement plant, which has operated in Lyons since the 1960s, must close because traffic to and from the facility has increased in recent years to such an extent that the property is no longer in compliance with land-use regulations. 

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“Boulder County has today issued a termination notice to Cemex Inc. requiring the company to cease operations at its Lyons cement plant,” Boulder County community planning and permitting director Dale Case said in a prepared statement Wednesday afternoon. “After a thorough investigation, we have determined that additional traffic at the plant has expanded Cemex operations.”

This concept of “expanded operations” at the site is important for understanding the county’s decision to force the plant’s closure.

Cemex’s roughly 866-acre property is an agricultural zoning district, which, according to Boulder County’s land-use code, does not allow cement plants as a permitted use. Because the plant has existed longer than the code, its operations have essentially been grandfathered into compliance. However, if it is determined that such a property has expanded its nonconforming operations, county regulators can shut down the site. 

According to a letter Case sent to Cemex executives on Wednesday, the Cemex operations in Lyons were considered to have expanded as a result of traffic to and from the 5134 Ute Highway plant more than doubling after Cemex was forced in 2022 to stop mining at the Dowe Flats Quarry, which provided raw materials for cement production at the Lyons facility. 

Presumably, Cemex began trucking in more materials when it could no longer source them from the nearby Dowe Flats Quarry.

“In December of 2022, in response to complaints by members of the public, the Colorado Department of Transportation approached Cemex to investigate a potential violation of its state access permit due to increases in truck traffic,” Case’s letter said. “CDOT required Cemex to provide an updated traffic study to determine if a new access permit was required.”

The study that Cemex commissioned to satisfy CDOT’s request “demonstrates a more intensive level of truck traffic since the quarry closure,” Case’s letter said. Average daily trips to and from the facility in June 2022 were fewer than 600. In June of the following year, there were nearly 1,300 on the average day. 

“In particular, the significant increase in traffic related to the nonconforming cement plant use has created a safety hazard for vehicles exiting the property as well as vehicles traveling along Highway 66,” Boulder County’s letter to Cemex leadership said. 

Cemex’s significantly expanded “truck traffic constítutes an enlargement or alteratíon of the nonconforming use, which has the effect of creating a hazard or nuisance of the property, adversely affects the character of the neighborhood, or intensifying the use of the land and its need for services,” county officials determined. 

Cemex has 30 days to appeal Boulder County’s decision and can continue to operate the Lyons plant during that period.

“The cement produced at the Lyons Plant by our more than 100 employees, including employees represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers, is a vital construction material for building homes, roads, hospitals, businesses, schools and other infrastructure projects that improve safety, mobility and quality of life in Boulder County and throughout Colorado,” Cemex’s email to BizWest said. 

Cemex Inc. will continue operating its Lyons cement plant for at least the next month as it evaluates Boulder County’s recent order to shutter the facility. 

Lucas High
A Maryland native, Lucas has worked at news agencies from Wyoming to South Carolina before putting roots down in Colorado.
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