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Construction to reduce berm underway

Aidan Leonard

SILVERTHORNE – Work to bring down parts of a controversial berm along Highway 9 has finally begun, bringing some satisfaction to local property owners and signalling the final stages of a long period of contention.

“It’s worked out pretty well,” said local homeowner Bruce Beerup. “There’s a lot more respect in our community again.”

The berm appeared last summer when Mark Mathis, who lives in the Lower Blue Valley near the Sierra Bosque neighborhood, asked a Department of Transportation contractor working on the highway to put excavated material on his land. It wasn’t long before neighbors started complaining about the more than 2,000 feet of concrete, rebar and earth that sprung up next to the road.

Last December, the county commissioners ordered the entire structure, which Beerup described as “of biblical proportions,” removed as soon as weather permitted. In the meantime, the county went back and began outlining guidelines for berms, something it had not done previously. Mathis applied for a permit under the new guidelines. His permit was granted, and he will be allowed to keep the portions of the structure on private land intact.

“It’s been a long process,” said County Manager of Current Planning Chris Hawkins. “We’re happy that the berm is getting changed and modified to reflect the new county standards.”

Residents seem happy about it, too.

“I think it just got a little out of control out here, but the county seems to be pulling it back under control,” Beerup said. Still, he called the current structure a “public embarrassment” and said he “would have been happier if it had never been dumped there in the first place.”

“(The new guidelines were) one more rule that doesn’t make me happy, but it was necessary here,” said Beerup, who proclaims general antipathy toward government. “It was obviously out of control.”

County Commissioner Tom Long was not so sure he’d heard the end of the issue, however.

“It’s created a lot of complications,” he said. “It’s one of those situations where no good deed will go unpunished. I’m sure some people will still be upset.”

“We’re just trying to reach a compromise and make everybody happy, and sometimes that’s an impossibility.”

According to Hawkins, the berm will now be “reduced significantly,” with guidelines that it cannot exceed eight feet in height, has to maintain a slope with a 3-1 grade, must be cleared of “inappropriate fill material such as concrete and rebar,” must be landscaped with a native grass mix, and must have “undulations.”

It will also be be divided into three sections that will sit on private property, County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom said.

The 3-1 grade requirement stipulates that for every foot of height, the berm must maintain three of width. The “undulations” are rises and falls that must reach as low as 50 percent of the maximum height, or four feet.

Hawkins said the guidelines were to make the berm more “naturally appealing” and “serpentine,” so that it fits into the natural topography.

After a visit to the site on Wednesday, Assistant County Engineer Rick Day said a fair amount of material had been removed but that work was far from complete.

“It looks like a construction site again.”

Though Mathis was unavailable for comment, Day estimated modifications would be completed by the end of the summer in conjunction with the completion of work on the highway.

Lindstrom said he was happy to see things coming to a close.

“I think the berm and also the Highway 9 North construction have both been large issues of contention over the past couple of years, and they’re both kind of wrapping up,” he said. “Hopefully, the community is going to be happy with both.”

Aidan Leonard can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at aleonard@summitdaily.com.


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