Trail rides cause friction

Neighbors raise complaints about outfitter's practices

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— A North Routt outfitting company is asking the county for some breathing room to operate its snowmobile and ATV tours.

Steamboat Lake Outfitters would like some of its restrictions and conditions eased because it claims it cannot meet them.

"We're asking for realistic conditions," said Chad Bedell, a co-owner of the company.

But the neighbors aren't convinced the company merits any leeway.

Nearby landowners have long complained Steamboat Lake Outfitters disregards the rules. The Routt County Planning Department has received many letters and phone calls about wayward and reckless snowmobilers and ATV riders.

If the company cannot abide by current county regulations, it does not deserve more generous regulations, said Tom Corbett, a neighboring homeowner.

"It's like rewarding (them) for doing something bad," Corbett said. "They don't care. They will do it whichever way they want."

The Routt County Planning Commission will make their recommendation tonight.

County planning commissioners could either concur with some of the company's requests or entirely revoke the conditional-use permit that outlines when and how the company can operate snowmobile tours, and its use of a mile-long private trail that meanders through residential property.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners last February heard complaints from neighboring residents and banned Steamboat Lake Outfitters from allowing unguided snowmobilers on the trail.

The county also ordered the company to place signs and gates at the entrances of the private trail.

Steamboat Lake Outfitters is now asking the county to relax its recent decision by requiring that guides only accompany people or groups on their first time down the private trail. Subsequent trips along the trail would not require a guide.

Bedell said lighter restrictions are necessary because the company cannot feasibly enforce the new restrictions.

The county commissioners never specifically outlined how the company should comply with their order to keep unguided snowmobilers off the private trail.

"Since the last meeting, we had hoped to find some way to accomplish this," Bedell said. "But we've come to the realization that there (are some things) we're not going to be able to enforce."

The company is also asking that the county reconsider its obligation to install gates at both ends of the private trail.

Current regulations hold Steamboat Lake Outfitters to a maximum of 48 snowmobiles and 15 ATVs a day. The company would like to see that number increased to 60 snowmobiles and 30 ATVs a day.

"We're hoping to show up with some options," Bedell said. "We're hoping for the best."

Steamboat Lake Outfitters might appeal an unfavorable decision by the County Planning Commission to the County Board of Commissioners, he added.

Corbett said he would prefer a temporary revocation of the company's permit that would give Steamboat Lake Outfitters time to comply with the permit's conditions and restrictions.

"This has to be the boiling point where the county says 'enough is enough,'" he said.

Neighbors' complaints and site visits, phone calls and enforcement letters from county planners have shown that Steamboat Lake Outfitters has failed to demonstrate it can operate under the current conditions of the permit, said Chad Phillips, assistant director of the County Planning Department.

"According to these neighbors, they do break their conditions," Phillips said. "That's going to be quite an issue."

Don Alperti, chairman of the County Planning Commission, said commissioners would walk the site today.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the commissioners' hearing room in the courthouse annex.

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