Guest ranch proposal returns to Routt County Planning Commission |

Guest ranch proposal returns to Routt County Planning Commission

New plan from Sweetwood owner includes fewer large events

— Ryan Wood, of Sweetwood Ranch, is scheduled to return to the Routt County Planning Commission tonight for a second attempt at gaining a favorable recommendation for a permit that would allow him to operate a small guest ranch and to host special events on his lower Elk River Ranch.

Wood's request for a special-use permit from the county was unanimously tabled Feb. 17, with Planning Commissioner John Ayer asking Wood to come back with more specific details about how he would manage the impacts of five specific aspects of his proposed operations.

"We're trying to show the local community, our neighbors and Planning Commission that we listened to what they had to say," Wood said Wednesday.

A substantial number of Wood's neighbors in the Elk River Mountain Ranch subdivision spoke against his plans in February, and a roughly proportionate number of people spoke in support of his project to undertake commercial operations during a public hearing that lasted 3 1/2 hours.

Wood, a former executive with Under Armour, raises grass-fed beef on the 525-acre ranch and markets the cuts of meat under the Sweetwood Cattle Co. brand. His cattle graze during parts of the year on open areas in the residential subdivision with the cooperation of the residents.

The ranch is under a conservation easement held by the Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust, which was transferred away from the Yampa Valley Land Trust after Wood bought the ranch from the May family. Some public comment on the special-use permit application has termed the transfer of the easement as a step that opened the way for commercial uses on the ranch beyond what they had been led to expect under the Yampa Valley Land Trust easement. However, county officials have said the transfer of the conservation easement is not pertinent to their consideration of the permit. Representatives of the Yampa trust have been unwilling to discuss the transfer.

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Overnight guests, events

Wood went before Planning Commission eight weeks ago seeking permission to create overnight lodging for as many as 25 guests and build a commercial kitchen that would allow the ranch to entertain 50 to 200 guests during special outdoor events such as weddings. In addition, Wood wants to offer fishing, horseback riding, skiing, mountain biking and hiking on the ranch. He hopes to host smaller events, cooking classes, for example, for fewer than 50 people, on a weekly basis.

In making his motion, Ayer asked Wood to provide more specific information about how he would mitigate the impacts on the neighborhood of the large special events, with particular attention to noise abatement, traffic control, a lighting plan, a plan for hiking/skiing trails, the intensity or frequency of use and defined site plans for wedding ceremonies and receptions on the ranch.

In a written report to the County Planning Department since the February meeting, Wood said he had retained an acoustic consultant in Denver to develop strategies for minimizing the impacts of outdoor music at the ranch. They include aiming speakers away from the hillside where homes are situated and installing acoustic backboards behind each speaker to trap sound reverberations.

County planner Jake Rosenberg said Wednesday that he thinks the intensity of the impact will be at the crux of the Planning Commission's discussion.

"The heart of the issue will be addressing the intensity" of use, Rosenberg said. "His proposals for hosting small events will come up for discussion, too."

Wood has proposed reducing Rosenberg's recommended limitation of 15 large events of as many as 250 people annually to three of 65 to 200 people in the first year and five in the second year. After two years, he proposes returning to the county to seek permission to increase the number of events through a permit renewal.

"We want to roll that part of our business out gradually and (show) that our plans to mitigate the impacts will work, and to prove that I'm not in a rush to have as many events out there as possible," Wood said.

"Whatever conditions come out of Planning Commission for the Board of County Commissioners, we would hope that the mitigations are sufficient so we wouldn't have complaints" from neighbors, Rosenberg said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

Also on agenda

After discussion of the Sweetwood Ranch permit, a pre-application conference for the proposed 10-acre Frentress gravel pit three miles west of Hayden off Routt County Road 65 takes place.

For more

WiFi is available at Planning Commission meetings to allow the public to review information packets online. Visit and click the planning department link in the left-hand column and then on the agenda link.

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