Steamboat Springs A petition for a special-use permit has been submitted to the Routt County Planning Commission by Ryan Wood, of Sweetwood Ranch, which is located about five miles north of Steamboat Springs along the Elk River. It is the headquarters for Sweetwood Cattle Co. The range of activities being requested by this special-use permit goes considerably beyond the intent of the original conservation easement granted by Bill and Cynthia May (the previous ranch owners) to the Yampa Valley Land Trust.
The overriding intent for granting conservation easements by the Yampa Valley Land Trust was to keep special farms and farm land continuously in agricultural use such that the land would not be diverted to housing development or other non-agricultural uses. This was also the reason given by the Routt County political community and sold to the Routt County taxpayers so that tax monies could be spent to help reach these land-utilization goals. The public in turn receives the pleasure of viewing a more pristine parcel of land, undeveloped and free from the normal problems inherent with high use commercial development.
In order to remove some of the restrictions in the Yampa Valley Land Trust contract, the conservation easement was transferred to the Colorado Cattleman’s Agricultural Land Trust. Approval of this special-use permit would further dilute the intent of conservation easement by allowing a non-agricultural business entity unrelated to agriculture. The petition for the special-use permit indicates that the ranch will be conducting as many as three special events/weddings/parties per month with up to 200 people attending and an undefined number of staff to support these events. The Planning Commission’s comments in regard to this request do not adequately address traffic concerns, shuttle transportation, water and sewage requirements, noise pollution, and impact on wildlife.
Having 200 partying folks almost every weekend of the summer will have a negative impact on the surrounding homes, as the location of the Sweetwood Ranch has an amphitheatre-like affect in the surrounding area.
This permit application should be tabled until a broader public is involved and understands how conservation easement grants are made, paid for and traded from one granting entity to another, and more specifically, what changes were made in that transfer. The effects of the special uses on the land and surrounding properties need to be resolved before, not after, the approval of the permit.
This special-use permit is scheduled to be discussed by the Routt County Planning Commission at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Commissioners Hearing Room at the historic Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave. Anyone who is concerned about the change of use of conservation easement land is encouraged to attend.