Steamboat Springs The Routt County Planning Commission voted unanimously Thursday night to recommend approval of Ryan Wood’s request for a permit to allow him to operate a small guest ranch and host special events at Sweetwood Ranch on the lower Elk River.
However, the 9-0 vote included recommendations to the Routt County Board of Commissioners that Wood be required to return to the county after the first two years of operation for renewal of his special-use permit. County planner Jake Rosenberg said Wood has a date with the county commissioners April 26.
Planning Commissioner Andrew Benjamin thanked an audience of detractors and supporters of Wood’s proposal for their participation in the public process.
But he told neighbors who opposed the plan based on its intensity of commercial use that they were overlooking some of the traditions of Western ranching.
“He’s bucking the trend by trying to produce and sell food locally. Guest ranching is a part of the ranching heritage. To deny that is to deny yourself the truth,” Benjamin said. “Ranches are high-impact uses. Ag uses are commercial enterprises. What he’s attempting to do is trying to generate as much revenue as he can. Don’t hold it against him that he’s been successful and has money.”
The commissioners also imposed a condition requiring Wood to use professional noise meters to monitor and document noise levels near property lines the ranch shares with neighboring homes situated on 35-acre lots.
Nearby resident Kelly Victory told the commissioners that she had spent five or six hours meeting with Wood in her home but that she remained unconvinced that he could mitigate the noise that would be produced by three large special events of as many as 200 people in the first year of the permit and five events in the second year.
“I’m shocked, with all this talk about noise abatement, that no one had decided to do anything to see if it can be done. Set up a stage, set up a band, get some speakers, do something that will get some answers,” Victory said.
Wood has said he would require the attendees of the large events to arrive in 28-person shuttle vans to minimize traffic impact along Routt County Road 129 where a bridge across the river leads to the ranch where he raises grass-fed cattle.
Planning Commissioner Sandi Gibson said she was convinced that he should be allowed to move forward.
“I’m willing to try this,” Gibson said. “I don’t think three large events are that big an issue. I commend the plan to carpool.”