Planning considers ranch expansion request

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Routt County Planning Commissioners could ask the owners of a 200,000-acre ranch to obtain permits showing they complied with county regulations as they consider the ranch's proposed 30-room lodge at their meeting tonight.

Three Forks Ranch Corporation owns or leases more than 200,000 acres in Routt County and Carbon County in Wyoming. The land is used for a ranching operation involving more than 7,000 cattle in the summer, as well as a hunting and fishing guest lodge open from June to October. The ranch's owners are requesting to build a large lodge, which would add lodging capacity to four existing homes that provide guest rooms and dining areas.

With the new request, the county learned the ranch does not have permits for an existing commercial kitchen, water and wastewater systems. Those permits would help the county ensure that current and future uses are in compliance, said Routt County Planner John Eastman.

"The main issue is ensuring all the health and safety regulations are complied with," Eastman said.

Possible impacts of the resort operations on neighbors are not a concern, Eastman said.

"It's really not an issue just because (the ranch) owns or controls so much land," he said.

The proposal represents a low intensity of use compared with options such as developing a home on every 35 acres, the planning report states.

The planning report also cited the ranch's ability to maintain the largest ranch in Routt County --despite pressures to develop -- and its recent completion of a river enhancement project and involvement with the Colorado Division of Wildlife on fish and game management.

"The applicant has clearly demonstrated a commitment to maintaining the agricultural heritage of the ranch while enhancing the stewardship of the land," the report states.

Income from the recreational resort uses bolsters agricultural income so the property can stay intact as a large agricultural parcel, the report states.

The additional proposed lodge, which could be built this summer, could provide opportunities for a year-round resort, Eastman said.

Included in the planning packet are two letters in favor of issuing the permit, one from the manager of adjacent Chicken Creek Ranch.

The Planning Commission also will have a work session on the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan Update, involving county and city planning staff.

The Routt County Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. tonight at the hearing room in the Routt County Courthouse Annex on Sixth Street.


-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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