North Routt Commercial rafting on the Elk River near Clark received Routt County Planning Commission's approval Thursday.
The planning commissioners voted 5-1 in favor of a two-year conditional use permit for High Adventure Rafting to use the Elk River Guest Ranch on Seedhouse Road as a starting point for up to 20 raft trips a day in May, June and July.
Planning Commission Chairman Troy Brookshire voted against the request, citing concerns with the safety of rafting customers crossing Seedhouse Road to get to the put-in site. Brookshire said he also didn't like a private business using a county road to unload its boats.
High Adventure Rafting owner John Duty said the company has been operating commercial raft trips on the Elk River for seven years. The end point, or take-out, has always been the Glen Eden Resort.
Until three years ago, Duty had a permit from the Forest Service for the starting point. In 1997, Duty began using the Elk River Guest Ranch property on Seedhouse Road for the put-in and said he voluntarily notified the county when he realized he needed a permit for the new put-in site.
Several adjacent landowners with concerns about the rafting operation wrote letters or spoke at Thursday's meeting.
Elk River property owner David Moss asked Duty how he would clear fallen trees from the river without trespassing on private property. Duty said in the past he has asked for the landowner's permission to cut the tree to allow the rafts to pass through, but Moss said Duty would never get his permission to do that.
"I'm not going to allow him to come on my land to cut a tree," Moss said. "That's his problem, not mine."
Other residents complained that the commercial rafting operation would impact their privacy.
"Having rafters float by the house three times a day, because of the closeness and narrowness of the river, would be like having house guests. Three times a day, we would hear and see the joy of their ride, their laughing, screaming and shouting, inside and outside of our house," wrote Jim and Cathy Rowe in an April 20 letter to the county.
Planning Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said the rafting operation complements the Upper Elk River Plan by matching tourism with residents' privacy.
"The fact that you've been operating for as long as you have without any complaints is perhaps the strongest recommendation in your favor," Bush said.
In other action Thursday, the Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for Katherine Ciavarra to host weddings on her property on County Road 33.
Ciavarra will be allowed to accommodate up to 150 people in a large country garden on her 14 acres located about 11 miles southwest of Steamboat Springs.
Guests will not be allowed to park on the county road and a condition of the approval states that Ciavarra will encourage the use of buses or carpooling to reduce traffic on CR 33.
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