Highway berm vexes officials, neighbors
SUMMIT COUNTY – County Commissioner Tom Long calls an newly constructed rock and dirt berm along Highway 9 “butt ugly.” It’s also illegal, and Long wants it removed or significantly enhanced.
“We’re going to be proceeding through the process to court, if necessary,” he said. “It’s going to be a time-consuming process that’s brought on by an irresponsible landowner, in my opinion. It needs to be removed or properly landscaped.”
The berm, which a neighbor says appeared a few weeks ago, is on property owned by Mark Mathis. It extends for about 2,000 feet across four lots, including Mathis’ home, along the west side of Highway 9 near the Sierra Bosque subdivision, about nine miles north of Interstate 70.
The berm is made of construction material from the six-mile, highway reconstruction project in progress there. It contains about 2,500 cubic yards of dirt and rocks, according to Shane Waldron, operations manger for highway contractor PCL Civil Constructors.
“It’s waste material we would otherwise have to find a home for on the (construction) site,” Waldron said. “But it’s not in a finished condition. There is some shaping up that needs to be done to try to make it look a little bit better.”
Summit County planning director Jim Curnutte said the work was done without county approval.
“(Mathis) needs a grading permit,” he said. “He needs to amend his approved subdivision grading and drainage plan.
“We notified him of a violation about three weeks ago. He hasn’t responded. We sent a follow-up letter, and I don’t believe we’ve heard from him on that.”
Mathis did not return calls requesting comment.
Curnutte said the county has several concerns.
“One is the look of the berm,” he said. “It’s pretty ugly. It’s one big pile of stuff with no undulation. I don’t think we’re necessarily opposed to having a berm, but the look is an issue.
“There’s also the weed issue. When you’ve got that much disturbed ground, it’s a breeding ground for weeds.”
The county has an aggressive program designed to control the spread of noxious weeds.
Long said he’s fielding complaints from neighboring homeowners who say they weren’t consulted about the berm before it appeared.
“It’s a big hassle for everyone involved when there is a landowner who appears to have no spirit of cooperation with neighbors,” he said. “I don’t think any of the neighbors would have objected to a nicely landscaped berm because it also helps with noise from the highway.”
“Both the berm and Highway 9 (construction) are driving us all crazy here. It’s been a complete frustration for just about everybody.”
Neighbor Bruce Beerup, who looks down on the berm from his home, called it “a horrid, ugly mess.”
“It’s like they’ve recreated the dredge piles they took out of Breckenridge,” he said. “It’s just going to be nothing more than a weed pile.”
Beerup said he wouldn’t object to the berm “if they end up landscaping it and taking care of it.” Otherwise, he said, “Get that eyesore out of there.”
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