If you go
What: Routt County Regional Planning Commission meeting regarding Ryan Wood’s request for a guest ranch permit at Sweetwood Ranch, located along Routt County Road 129 in North Routt County
When: 6 p.m. today
Where: Third-floor Commissioners Hearing Room, Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave.
Steamboat Springs A request for a permit to allow guest ranch operations on the Sweetwood Ranch on the lower Elk River is scheduled to be considered by the Routt County Regional Planning Commission tonight.
Owner Ryan Wood bought the Bill and Cynthia May Ranch in 2007 and has established a natural beef operation, Sweetwood Cattle Co., there. Now, he’s seeking permission from the county to create overnight lodging for as many as 25 guests and build a commercial kitchen that would allow the ranch to entertain 50 to 200 people during special outdoor events such as weddings. In addition, Wood wants to offer fishing, horseback riding, skiing, mountain biking and hiking on the ranch.
County Planner Jake Rosenberg said he has received more than 15 letters of concern from neighboring property owners, many of them owners of homes on 35-acre parcels in the Elk River Mountain Ranch Subdivision overlooking Sweetwood and the Elk, where it flows along Routt County Road 129 about five miles northwest of Steamboat Springs.
“We have been comfortable with the activities on the Sweetwood Ranch to date, and we do not have concerns about a minimal guest ranch operation with certain limitations imposed,” neighbors Paul and Joan Heimback wrote to Rosenberg. “We do, however, have very strong objections about the ranch becoming the venue for weddings, with the projection of three events per month, hosting 200 guests and the development of a guest ranch for up to 25 guests requiring living facilities and recreational amenities.”
Wood said Wednesday that the guest ranch component at Sweetwood was not part of his original plans but after moving to Old Town in Steamboat this year and receiving numerous inquiries from people who want to visit the ranch, he decided to expand on the ranch business.
“We’ve worked really, really hard to keep the cattle business going and put up the hay. We’ve restored about two miles of the river and improved fences. We’ve really tried to build a nice business with Sweetwood Cattle Co.,” Wood said. “I think it would be a great place close to town to rent to a family or small group of executives so they can experience authentic Steamboat.”
Rosenberg said the Sweetwood Guest Ranch proposal is for a 383-acre portion of the 525-acre ranch. The land is zoned agriculture/forestry and is primarily hay meadow.
Sweetwood is under a conservation easement that restricts building on the property to a 5-acre envelope, Rosenberg wrote in the report on the permit request.
Rosenberg said this week that he has prepared a list of 29 conditions the planning commissioners could consider imposing on the operation should they recommend approval to the Routt County Board of Commissioners.
He said the menu of conditions has the potential to reduce the intensity of proposed activities on the ranch.
The list includes a possible requirement that special events be restricted to 15 per calendar year and another that would limit outdoor recreational activities to between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Rosenberg also recommends that shuttle services be used to reduce vehicle trips and impacts of special events.
Some of the letters from concerned neighbors reflect the perception that the ranch was conserved with funds through the Routt County purchase of development rights program. County records show that is not the case.
County Commissioner Doug Monger said the county has a duty to inform the holder of the conservation easement, in this case the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, of any changes in use. However, the county would not take the easement into consideration when determining whether the request for the special-use permit fits the county master plan and its zoning regulations.
Trust Executive Director Chris West wrote to Rosenberg on Jan. 31 to confirm that the proposed recreational and commercial uses and the number of residential structures fall within the limitations placed on the ranch by the conservation easement.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or e-mail tross@SteamboatToday.com