May 10, 2024

Cemex to appeal closure order for Lyons cement plant

LYONS — Cemex Inc., which has operated a cement plant in Lyons since the 1960s, claims that an April decision by Boulder County officials to demand closure of the facility will have “statewide implications” and “should be reversed.”

In a statement emailed Friday to BizWest, Cemex, a Mexican building-materials giant with a United States headquarters in Texas, argued that forcing the Lyons operation — one of three cement plants in Colorado — to close will make it “more expensive to build a home during an unprecedented housing crisis.”

The materials made in Lyons are “literally the foundation for the tens of thousands of single- and multi-family homes that Colorado so desperately needs,” the company said. “When the cost of building materials goes up, all Coloradans are hurt, to say nothing of the loss of 100 good-paying blue-collar jobs.”

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Dale Case, Boulder County’s community planning and permitting director, determined last month that 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 and must cease operations. 

“After a thorough investigation, we have determined that additional traffic at the plant has expanded Cemex operations,” Case said in an April statement.

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 last month, 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. 

Ute Highway is also Colorado Highway 66, a prime tourist route to Estes Park from Interstate 25.

“Cemex is disappointed by the department’s assertion that a continuation in historical truck traffic should result in a loss of Cemex’s long-standing and unrefuted right to continue operation of its Lyons cement plant,” the company said in a statement Friday. “The department’s determination is not only factually and legally incorrect but threatens the livelihoods of Cemex’s local workforce and their families and would set a concerning precedent for any business operating as a legal, non-conforming use.”

In late 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 said in an April letter to Cemex executives that laid out the rationale for Boulder County’s decision. “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. 

In an email Friday, a Boulder County spokesman confirmed that the county had received Cemex’s response to Case’s determination and said that the company “is exercising its option of providing evidence to the (Boulder County planning and permitting) director that the director’s determination was in error. The director will review that additional evidence and issue an additional determination. If that determination is adverse to Cemex, they will have the option of appealing” to the Boulder County Board of Commissioners.

Cemex Inc., which has operated a cement plant in Lyons since the 1960s, claims that an April decision by Boulder County officials to demand closure of the facility will have “statewide implications” and “should be reversed.”

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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