Tack Louthan drives the team as Chase Fix spreads hay behind a sled in December at Sweetwood Cattle Co. in North Routt County. Ranch owners are requesting a guest and special events permit.

File photo

Tack Louthan drives the team as Chase Fix spreads hay behind a sled in December at Sweetwood Cattle Co. in North Routt County. Ranch owners are requesting a guest and special events permit.

North Routt's Sweetwood Ranch requests guest permit

Several neighbors raise concerns about noise, traffic

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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.

— 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

Comments

stillinsteamboat 3 years, 7 months ago

This guy has been here such a short time and has his hands in everything. Ryan, this is Steamboat. I don't think you are really contributing to the community by turning THE MAY RANCH into an amusement park. By the way, we saw you on News4 a few months back and heard you boast about YOUR conservation easement. You never once mentioned the May family who have a long and important history in this community. They are the selfless and generous family who intended to keep their property pristine in perpetuity

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mark bond 3 years, 7 months ago

Sounds like a great plan to generate more tourism for Steamboat along with the much needed additional revenue. Good luck Ryan!

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boatwatch 3 years, 7 months ago

This proposal is such a blatant attempt to 'commercialize" a conversation easement that Routt County ought to table the proposal and allow the easment holder, Colorado Cattleman's Ag Land Trust to reassess their responsibilities. Citizens should also ask why the Yampa Valley Land Trust gave up the stewardship of this property to the CCALT. Did the YVLT and the CCALT receive significant donations from Ryan Wood to make this happen? Ryan Wood has the wealth to pursue whatever he purports his current "dream life" to be. However, wealth should not allow Ryan Wood to build a private "Disneyland " in the middle of what has always been a rural community. It is time to bring back the old bumpersticker; "STOP THE BRUTAL MARKETING!"

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Candice Martin 3 years, 7 months ago

Love your comment Boatwatch! Could not agree more! As a member of the May family this news is EXTREMELY hurtful.

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Ken Reed 3 years, 7 months ago

martinratdog, I hope you will be at the planning meeting tonight. Your input as a May family member would be very interesting to hear.

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Kelly Victory 3 years, 7 months ago

martinratdog -- I hope that you will not only attend the meeting tonight, but that you will alert the rest of your family to what is transpiring. I can only imagine how hurtful this would be, given the great lengths that Bill and Cynthia went to to assure that the property would not be developed in this way. I suspect there are other pertinent issues about which members of your family would be aware.

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David Carrick 3 years, 7 months ago

Interesting!

The article says, "Owner Ryan Wood bought the Bill and Cynthia May Ranch in 2007 and has established a natural beef operation, Sweetwood Cattle Co., there."

martinratdog commented, "As a member of the May family this news is EXTREMELY hurtful."

Ken Reed commented to martinratdog, "Your input as a May family member would be very interesting to hear."

The May's had no problem accepting a generous purchase price from Mr. Wood in 2007, yet they and others believe that they somehow still are owed input and pacification?

Yes, interesting indeed!

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Candice Martin 3 years, 7 months ago

   Generous? He haggled my elderly grandparents an entire million dollars down from a deal that was already awesome for a gorgeous ranch on the beautiful Elk River. The only reason my family sold our ranch that had been in the family for over 100 years & multiple generations was out of mere necessity to support my elderly grandparents. If not in the conservation easement they could have asked for much, much more. The new owner also did not make good on a few promises made to my family, & while they were not legally binding or anything still painted some colors. I will be at that meeting tonight. I assure you.
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BeeBeeMay7 3 years, 7 months ago

Agreed Boatwatch. I am also part of the May family and grew up on this ranch. Reading the article made me cry. My family took the conservation easement extremely serious when they signed it. We only made a small fraction of money compared to what we would have if we did not sign. I believe he will make as much money in the matter of years off of this operation as my family sold our 5 generation ranch for. I believe this news would make my late Grandfather so sad. One of the reason my family chose to sell our ranch to Ryan was, he implied through his real estate agent he wanted to keep it historical and loved just the way it was. I would like to make it clear that I'm only speaking for myself not the rest of my family. God bless everyone.

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Joan Heimbach 3 years, 7 months ago

My husband I were quoted in the newspaper, TODAY, as saying we did not object to a guest ranch operation at Sweetwood Ranch, with limitations. That is an accurate quote and does go on to say we object to the request for the SUP as presented. Such limitations, in our opinion, would be something akin to a quiet bed and breakfast.

We would like to reaffirm that we oppose the request calling for a 25 person lodge and supporting recreational amenities that would logically follow. If one views the actual property, with a large, flat grazing basin, one would quickly realize the hikers, mountain bikers and others have little place to go on the actual 525 acre ranch that didn't abut neighbor's fencelines - as close as 150 feet away- or travel through elk and deer grounds. Furthermore, we are staunchly opposed to the use of the property for weddings and special events. The numbers have been reported, but the vague interpretation of "events allowing more than 200" and the definition of "events" could conceivably be anything from an equine or stock competition with accompanying livestock and trailers to a mountain bike competition, or perhaps a bandfest. Fully one third of our year's weekends (and most likely condensed into fair weather) would be subject to any of these intrusions- included repeated versions of "The Chicken Dance" and related party noise...all under a canopy of industrial lighting intruding into our starry night skies.

Mr. Wood is quoted in today's article as saying this was a plan that came to him after he moved from the ranch to town and had friends visit and wanted to see the ranch. Well, can they not do that "as is"? The idea to grow this into a commercial business at the expense of the neighborhood is wrong. And how would he feel if he still lived on the ranch and the Woodstone property - across CO 129 - asked for the same expansion?

We live here for the peace, quiet and lovely views of the rural and pristine lower Elk River area. This property is a relatively small ranch (approx. 525 acres) totally surrounded by residential properties. We would all be unwilling "guests" at any such event owing to the noise and light pollution that would occur. The graceful wildlife we now enjoy roaming the immediate properties would be disturbed until soon enough, they travel elsewhere. All of this was once protected by a conservation easement, ostensibly in perpetuity. That appears to be no more. And from further quotes in today's article, will not be a factor in considering this SUP request.

We appreciate the public eye that is being drawn to this request permit. Many letters and comments have been submitted. I encourage not only those directly affected by this particular SUP request but all those in this town that value the Master Plan and what we have here. It is a bellwether case.

Joan Heimbach Routt County

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HiltonGultch 3 years, 7 months ago

With all due respect, I don't understand why Old Man May would mind people from around the world coming and staying at his ranch? Little kids learning to ski and fish and ride horses and snow machines, couples getting married and celebrating, isn't that what ranches are for? Wood has the money to lock the gates forever Willy Wonka style, I think it's cool he would share that place with other people, it looks amazing! It's not like he wants to turn it into 35 acre parcels!

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greenwash 3 years, 7 months ago

Good idea have him buy "Woodstone" its in foreclosure or go up to" Triple Diamond " its also in foreclosure.

Seriously though , Woodstone tried for an SUP some years ago If I recall they were denied.(And now they are long gone)

Cant wait for that shooting range on the Sherrod Ranch right next to Marabou Clubhouse should be fun...

As far as historical value....The Original May House and Barns were sadly all torn down. Thankfully the bridge still exists but who knows for how long.

Mabye a Kum and Go or Walgreens on Cullins Corner to serve all those N.Routt speeders???

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nypearson 3 years, 7 months ago

Com·mu·ni·ty - A social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and HISTORICAL HERITAGE.

This ranch is historic heritage, it means so much to SO MANY members of this community. This alone should not be ignored and pushed under the rug. I have close friends whom are apart of the May Family and I truly believe in my heart that this family would not of sold this ranch if they did not have to!

There are plenty of places for TOURISTS to go and have a completely authentic Steamboat Springs experience such as the Home Ranch or SLO. Just a couple of the top of my head, there are so many others. We don not need to pillage one of the last Historic pieces of property in Steamboat.

I hope that Mr. Woods has some heart and thinks about what this means to our COMMUNITY as a whole. Steamboat Springs is my favorite place on the planet and as a community we should be working hard to preserve our HERTAGE ! This Ranch means just as much to me as the Historic Steamboat Barn and should be treated the same! (Politics set aside this comes from the heart)

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BeeBeeMay7 3 years, 7 months ago

With all due respect to you as well. First don't call my Grandpa "old man May" he was an amazing man who served for our country and deserves more respect then that. Maybe you are thinking of "Dude Ranches". A ranch is for raising livestock. Bill May let many kids come to our ranch to learn how to do all the things you mentioned, with no charge. The purposes of conservation is to restricts real estate development, commercial and industrial uses. I think we need to let the land be. More people = more noise, more light, more traffic, less scenic open space, less wildlife habitats and more. As to DLCarrick. to your statement "The May's had no problem accepting a generous purchase price from Mr. Wood in 2007, yet they and others believe that they somehow still are owed input and pacification?" You have no clue what you are talking about. Also EVERYONE is owed input, family or not.

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HiltonGultch 3 years, 7 months ago

Sorry, still doesn't do it for me. Those places are not nearly as cool as the May ranch, plus it's right outside of town so people could shuttle into go skiing and have dinner. If he had a wedding of 200, but only quartered 25, that's a lot of people staying in town, eating in town, shopping in town, but forget about the town, right, just don't go tearing down any old buildings. I've always disliked the "Locals Only" attitude, I'm anxious to see how that plays tonight, don't forget your soapboxes.

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Fred Duckels 3 years, 7 months ago

I know nothing on this matter, but I think that the original intent should be adhered to. The May's could have sold for much more without the conservation arrangement.

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matthew1219 3 years, 7 months ago

i had a house once. money troubles came and i had to sell. i built it with blood, sweat,and tears. it killed me to sell it. the new owner tore it down to build a rodeo fairground. too bad, so sad, it was not mine anymore and i had nor have any right to say anything about the lands use. i lost it because i did not plan for variable circumstances. i needed the money. again, i say "i" lost it. he did not take it from me things change. usually for the better. it is a shame that a bunch of self absorbed relatives who feel sorry for their self or people that think they know better than progress try to ruin the future for the majority of us and the rest of the valley. progress means development and development means more money in the local economy.

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HiltonGultch 3 years, 7 months ago

I meant the utmost respect when I said Old Man May actually, even though he forced me from my kayak with a shotgun off of his bridge, but thanks for proving how annoying entitled locals are.

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matthew1219 3 years, 7 months ago

and as for ryan, thank god he saved his money and has chosen to spend so much of it in steamboat

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matthew1219 3 years, 7 months ago

if all of the tourists go away and nothing is left but pioneer locals, what do you suppose downtown would look like?

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BeeBeeMay7 3 years, 7 months ago

I nor any of my family is self absorbed. I would give you the shirt off my back right now, even after your statement. I want absolutely nothing but the best for the valley.

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greenwash 3 years, 7 months ago

Bill May , Delbert Sherrod , Rocky Mannon , Dean Wheeler, Bill Fetcher and even Jerry Garcia ...Those were the days.

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BeeBeeMay7 3 years, 7 months ago

I nor any of my family are self absorbed. I would give you the shirt off my back right now, even after your statement. I want absolutely nothing but the best for the valley.

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HiltonGultch 3 years, 7 months ago

Listen, this has nothing to do with the May's, I'm sure they were wonderful people, but they sold that place for millions and millions of dollars, and you can all feel happy for them, I know I do. It's now called Sweetwood, and have you seen that place? It's some sort of mega ranch, I think the nicest in the valley. I'm thinking of the High dollar clients a place like this brings in and it has my support. There is open space from Steamboat to Craig for everybody who seeks absolute quiet.

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JustSomeJoe 3 years, 7 months ago

Hilton Gulch - you are missing the point. Sweetwood and Ryan Wood can't do what ever they want there. The Mays sold off the development rights of the property to a conservation easement (google it). This easement changes the ability of the owners and future owners to develop the property. The easement makes the land worth less in return for a tax break to the person granting the easement. The purchase price of land in a conservation easement is less than the same land with all its development rights intact. Ryan Wood purchased the ranch at the lesser value and in full understanding of the easement. You can't just say now, well the economy is in the crapper and it's a nice ranch and we want rich people to have parties there.

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HiltonGultch 3 years, 7 months ago

I guess you should shut him down then, by all means. Quarters for 25 and an industrial kitchen hardly strikes me as the kind of development that is restricted on a property that size. I thought Steamboat was having a tough time but it must be my imagination.

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boater1 3 years, 7 months ago

get real everyone. sold in 07. the mays should be thanking him to no end as that's the begining of the end and if not for ryan wood that property would still be on the market for even less and maybe on it's way to forclosure land. i remember that ranch being on the market for a long time and that tells me it was over valued before his offer anyway. don't bite the hand that feed you!

this, i'm more local than thou attitude is bs. it's not like he is asking for a high rise hotel on the property. what he will bring is needed tourist, local jobs & some construction with this. in case anyone had not noticed, summer weddings are one of best growth industries at this point...otherwise steamboat's finances are in the crapper.

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BeeBeeMay7 3 years, 7 months ago

I would like to end my thoughts on this note: The May family and the Wood family have been extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to live on that beautiful land. As my grandma says "that land is not ours or the Woods but it is Gods land." I only wish love and happiness to Ryan and his family. God Bless and goodnight.

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pitpoodle 3 years, 7 months ago

Ryan Wood bought the property with restrictions. He knew what he was buying. Owners of surrounding properties have every right to think that imperpetuity means what the word implies and to have the property protected by the conservation easement. Country Commissioners have the responsibility to protect residents rights regardless of how many promises are made by rich people promising to provide -- what? financial prosperity to SBS or Routt County? Or, maybe anything goes as long as the promises include jobs and growth - who cares about the locals who live here? Just the traffic issues alone should be a major concern at this location. Say no Commissioners.

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blue_spruce 3 years, 7 months ago

"Bill and Cynthia May’s son, Jay, passed out vintage tourism brochures his parents used decades ago to attract guests and hunters to the ranch.

“We liked to share that ranch with as many people as we could,” May said. “Here’s a brochure for ‘May cabins for rent.’ We had three cabins and a big bunkhouse. People came out to fish. Church groups would come out and do big sleigh rides and sing Christmas carols...."

sounds like the family is actually split on this thing anyhow!! the plot thickens....

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