Sweetwood gets initial OK from Routt County Planning Commission

Commissioners vote to recommend approval of ranch permit


— 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.”


steamboatsprings 6 years ago

Great, the planning commission is exactly right to think of ranches as commercial operations because that is exactly what they are. Ranches have historically hosted parties, rodeos etc and more often than not have heavy equipment operating early and late. I commend Ryan for building a sustainable model that can maintain a significant ranch going forward.


Scott Wedel 6 years ago

I note the new proposal is 3 large parties this year and 5 next which is quite different from the original request of 3 large parties a month.

Part of ranching has been to do whatever else to make some extra money. But it is not typical that a ranch is located so close to a major resort area that it could have a business of holding large parties every weekend.


Candice Martin 6 years ago

 I have had some time to think about all of this & I have come to a feel a little differently than I did initially. My main concern was that the conservation easement had been altered dramatically, when in all actuality Ryan Wood will still be in adherence to the square footage originally dictated. I also think part of me was so upset by some other people's comments I didn't really calmly look at the whole situation before posting my comments. I also think a part of me is still grieving the loss of not just a piece of property, but my heritage, history, childhood, & family.  
 I am glad that Ryan is trying to make agriculture work for him. I am glad that he is not being Hen-Pecked by Susan Otis. At the last meeting my Uncle J brought up a point I really took to heart; My Grandpa, Bill May traveled all the way to Washington D.C. to make his voice heard & to support private property rights. I hope Ryan Wood the best.

ybul 6 years ago

The Yampa Valley land trust is not that bad. They are not hen pecking me, working well with me to maintain the spirit of the conservation easement and yet allow me to do things which might be grey areas and one could argue either way as to wether or not they should be allowed.

My easement says I can not have a processing facility. This would entail washing lettuce for sale, so the letter of the easement says I can not do it, yet the spirit of the easement could care less about wether I wash process lettuce, but that I do not open up a monfort style processing facility. So in order to be able to process lettuce I have to work with them to change the wording such that it allows processing of food, giving up something in exchange for being able to process food I have to give up something, say being able to have hunters pay to hunt on the property.

Without doing so the federal, state and tax laws have been violated. The conservancy holding the easement could be in breach of its fiduciary responsibilities and at risk of losing their 501c3 status. The individual that now owns the property that was allowed to breach the letter of the conservation easement could be liable for back taxes and interest due to the state and local agencies for not adhering to the letter of the conservation easement.

Given the negative equity the federal government has right now, I would not put it past them for investigating every instance where they might be able to come up with revenue in the future. If I were Mr Wood, I certainly would ensure that my conservation easement allowed for no grey areas which might broach upon abusing the tax system.

If the easement can be interpreted in someones eyes in multiple ways, then I would ensure I eliminated the grey areas such that I could not be held liable in the future for breaching the original agreement, even if the spirit of the easement did not intend to prohibit hosting weddings on my property, I would ensure I was in compliance with everyones interpretation.


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