WELD COUNTY, Colo. -- A controversial concrete and asphalt plant in Weld County never opened because of legal battles and fallout with neighbors.
Now, the plant owner, Martin Marietta, has apparently found a legal loophole, allowing them to fire up the plant after years of delays.
“This is really a wild pitch from them,” said Wolfgang Dirk, who lives in the Indian Head Estates subdivision just east of the plant.
The neighborhood filed suit a few years ago against the plant, in which Dirk was one of the plaintiffs listed. In the years-long legal battle, the neighborhood won a few court cases and appeals and has successfully prevented the plant from opening because of noise.
But now, Martin Marietta appears to be sidestepping legal and regulatory speed bumps by announcing this week it has handed the plant over to Rock & Rail LLC, a railroad company that is federally licensed and owned by Martin Marietta.
"As matters now stand, Rock & Rail's predecessor MMM has been seeking a county permit for the Hwy. 34 facility for more than three years," Martin Marietta stated in a letter sent to (Weld County) commissioners Tuesday afternoon. "No end to that process, or the litigation spawned by it, is in sight. Rock & Rail has therefore elected to exercise its right to commence operations at the Hwy. 34 facility, as it is authorized to do under (The Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act)."
"A long line of cases establishes that state and local zoning or land use provisions may not be used to require a railroad to obtain prior permission before undertaking an action that involves the construction, permitting or operation of a rail yard and related facilities, including an intermodal facility," states the release from the company.
Neighbors are baffled.
"It blindsided everybody,” said Barry Robertson who can clearly see the plant from his backyard. “I mean, nobody can understand how that can possibly even happen."
The company argues its operations are now permitted under federal law, superseding state rules.
"Basically, no rules," Robertson said.
Rock & Rail is owned by Martin Marietta - which simply transferred ownership from one name to another.
"If you call yourself a railroad, you can make as much noise as you like," Dirk said.
Neighbors say it's nothing more than a scam. A ‘Goliath’ pushing its way around, circumventing state law in its favor.
“They have the money, we don't,” Robertson said.
“Downright disgusting," Dirk said. “They've totally denied the rules that were established for them."
Denver7 reached out to Martin Marietta for comment on Thursday, but did not hear back.