County considers new options for Sweetwood Ranch

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— County Commissioner Doug Monger expressed some misgivings this week in the wake of the unanimous tabling of Sweetwood Ranch proprietor Ryan Wood’s petition for a special-use permit that would allow him to operate a guest ranch and special events center on his cattle ranch about five miles northwest of Steamboat.

The commissioners unanimously sent the plan back to the drawing board with a tabling motion Tuesday.

Monger said he wished county officials had come to the conclusion earlier in the review process that Wood’s plans for the ranch would rule out approval of the guest ranch permit. Wood’s plan included hosting three to five large events annually, for as many as 200 people, in addition to as many as 10 monthly events for smaller groups who weren’t overnight guests.

“We have to take some blame as well as the applicant,” Monger said. “I apologize. I think we missed the boat a little bit. I feel bad for him. It’s not a good way we’d like to handle business at all. We’re a little disappointed that we got to this point and two plus two didn’t add up. Somebody should have picked up the fact that the special events didn’t fit.”

All three commissioners said near the end of a three-plus hour public hearing Thursday that they have no problem with Wood’s plans to operate a modest guest ranch but concluded that they could not find a way to fit his special events into the technical definition of a guest ranch permit.

“I have one huge problem,” Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said during the hearing. “It’s an application for a guest ranch, and I don’t believe that all of the uses being proposed fit a guest ranch in the subdivision regulations. The definition of a guest ranch is a ranch that boards guests on the ranch and provides recreational opportunities for them on or near the ranch. We have a proposal for providing opportunities for people who are not boarding on the ranch.”

Wood did not return several phone calls this week inquiring about what his next step might be. Routt County Planning Director Chad Phillips said Friday that Wood had checked in with him during the week for an update.

Stahoviak said at the end of Tuesday’s hearing that she specifically asked Routt County attorney John Merrill to confirm that the language in the tabling motion was sufficient.

“We didn’t include very much specific language, and we won’t see it again until it’s back on our agenda,” Stahoviak said. “In general, we asked the planning director to work with the petitioner if the (special events) will work within another type of use in our regulations.”

Monger said they opted to table Wood’s petition, rather than vote to deny it, because they want Phillips to work with Wood to find another way to allow special events.

“Bottom line was we determined the request was not allowable under our subdivision regulations,” Monger said. “We directed staff to find out what part of the subdivision regs it would fit under.”

Phillips said he, Merrill and County Manager Tom Sullivan were engaged in a series of discussions this week about options they could present to Wood as soon as next week.

One possibility is a category called Recreation, Outdoor, Rural.

Existing special-use permits have been issued under that heading to the Storm Mountain Ranch cabins, Lake Catamount Nature Center, Humble Ranch, Saddle Mountain Ranch and Columbine Cabins, he said.

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