The Routt County Board of Commissioners overruled its Planning Commission and changed a permit for Steamboat Lake Outfitters that had been appealed by neighboring property owners.
The Routt County Regional Planning Commission on Dec. 16 approved changes to a conditional-use permit for SLO's commercial winter use of an easement to National Forest and its all-terrain vehicle tours and rentals. SLO requested the change after selling its large-scale snowmobile tour business.
On Tuesday, county commissioners overturned the Planning Commission permit and approved a new set of conditions, many of which were recommended by the SLO neighbors who appealed the permit.
"I am very disappointed with the Planning Commission's decision," County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.
She said she did not agree with the Planning Commission's permit because it took away some important limits on SLO's snowmobile use.
When approving the new permit Tuesday, commissioners referred to a 2003 permit that included the original limits on SLO snowmobilers' use of the trail, such as time limits on when snowmobilers can leave and how many snowmobilers can use the trail. Snowmobile use also was restricted to guided tours provided to SLO cabin guests only.
The conditions, county commissioners said, are meant to encourage most snowmobilers to use a new trail that links the National Forest to Steamboat Lake State Park, also called the Quealy Trail, instead of the SLO easement trail. The new linker trail should reduce conflicts with private property owners.
The review came after neighbors Nancy and Mike Weber, and Doris and Bob Newton filed an appeal of the SLO permit Dec. 20.
Their attorney, James "Sandy" Horner, said the neighbors' problems with the new permit included noise and safety. Snowmobiles traveling on the easement can create loud noise, Horner said, and they also can pose a safety hazard when they are speeding.
Horner suggested that county commissioners make SLO put more signs on Forest Road 409 directing the public to use the Quealy trail and not the easement trail, restricting use of the easement to cabin guests, requiring guides, and restricting the numbers of snowmobilers who can go out and when they can travel on the road. The permit county commissioners approved put those conditions in place.
Terry Nelson, manager of SLO, said without the snowmobile rental business, SLO would guide at least 75 percent fewer snowmobiles across the easement. The business has been cooperative and should not have to comply with more regulations than what the Planning Commission approved, he said.
"We believe we have done everything in our power to accommodate our neighbors," Nelson said.
County Commissioner Doug Monger said he hoped the new permit would create a workable situation where SLO and the community can "survive and prosper."
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