New plan could simplify the Routt County permit process for those seeking to grow and sell food locally


If you go

What: Routt County commissioners discuss new local food production committee

When: 11 a.m. Tuesday

Where: Commissioners Hearing Room, Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs

— Ag operators and locavores in the Yampa Valley hoping to start a new local food venture may have felt they had a long row to hoe in 2012 and 2013 when they made first contact with Routt County.

Lettuce growers, an experimental cheese maker and a poultry producer all engaged with the county in the past two years and found out that when it comes to producing food on a commercial basis, there are rules that must be followed. And it's not always easy.

Now, government officials representing departments including CSU Extension, County Planning, Health and Environment and Road and Bridge, among others, are talking about making the initial contact with would-be food producers far less labor intensive for the public, and perhaps even for themselves.

In December 2013, the county commissioners gave Marsha Daughenbaugh, of the Community Agriculture Alliance, their blessing to investigate the concept of a new committee involving county department heads to informally explore the business plans of new food entrepreneurs and identify issues they may face. It’s being called the Local Food Production Regulatory Advisory Committee.

On Tuesday, Daughenbaugh and others in the ag community will give the county commissioners a more detailed proposal.

“I hope it’s something (the commissioners) will see some value in and ask us to move forward. Everybody at the county has been great about understanding people are interested in doing this,” Daughenbaugh said. “On the other hand, we want to make sure the food is safe,” for the public.

Daughenbaugh said Monday that she has had regular meetings this winter with county department heads, as well as local representatives of the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

“I think it’s been a great learning experience for all of the department heads,” she said.

One proposal coming from the winter meetings is the possibility of inviting emerging food production businesses to meet with all the county department heads at one sitting to allow everyone involved to get on the same page when it comes to evaluating how those business plans would mesh with county regulations across different departments.

Routt County CSU Extension Director Karen Massey said she thinks the new committee is a step in the right direction.

During the winter meetings, county staff members were made aware of a variety of regulations that can make a food business a lot less expensive and complex to get off the ground, Massey said. For example, the regulatory thresholds are less costly when all of the employees in a company are family members.

As a precursor to a meeting with department heads, applicants would be asked to complete a one-page questionnaire that would serve to qualify the nature of their prospective businesses in a way that would allow county officials to understand and explain the kinds of approvals the food entrepreneurs will need to seek.

The questions include:

• What products will be grown and produced?

• Will any food be served on site?

• How will products be produced, processed, cleaned, packaged, sorted and transported?

• Describe the water source?

• Does the applicant own a water right?

• Describe the type and amount of waste generated.

Applicants also would be asked to supply detailed site plans that can be economically obtained from the County Assessor’s Office.

The hope is that one big informal meeting with department heads would go a long way toward eliminating the confusion people have experienced in testing their business ideas in the county process.

“I think it could be cost effective for the county,” Daughenbaugh said.

On the other hand, she added, it might lead people with ideas for new food production businesses to realize they don’t have the level of interest or resources required to make their ideas a reality.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1


John Weibel 3 years ago

The whole permitting process is a part of the problem and rules governing external costs of what is done on ones property should be regulated/reviewed. Not wether one can or can not do something on their land without seeking the governments approval. Adding value to an ag product (separating the wheat from the chaff, utilizing some process to make ones ag product storable for later sale as the climate here is difficult), renting a home on a nightly basis, logging (as long as it is not wholesale clear cutting of a property) or anything of a non-commercial/industrial (a retail store, lots of people coming and going) the scale of an operation, should be allowed.

Other than complying with rules and regulations or protecting the environment and safety, the permitting of how one can use their private property as they see fit is simply adding taxes/costs. Allowing people to rent out homes on a nightly basis, raises property values, and also increases tax revenues. Being able to extract water from milk to make it shelf stable, should not require a planning department permit, though it should require the health departments oversight. Ones neighbors should not be able to determine how one uses their property, if it has little or no effect on them.

Then there are some rules which provide no actual benefit and those rules need some way of being reviewed in a professional manner. When a fire response is likely to take an hour, there is little use in a "fire wall" to protect the insurance company from a larger loss - so that a fire can be put out before it spreads. Evidence of the insurers belief that there is no need for a firewall in such a setting are disregarded.

In a rural setting, insurance premiums are higher as fire response times are longer, rarely will there ever be anything but a total loss of a structure in the event of a fire, wether there is a "fire wall" or not. Old structures rarely comply with current codes and the cost of bringing them up to code to be able to "process" ones agricultural product, as long as all health safety and reasonable real safety (Electrical, ensuring it appears structurally sound, etc.) issues are met, there is little sense in ensuring frost protection, insulation (most will be seasonally used and unheated), etc.. It seems that common sense does not get utilized in these situations.

Setting up the rules, enforcing them and getting out of the way seems to make more sense than requiring permitting of every activity that one wants to partake in and imposing rules that make it difficult to utilize old structures, even the ICC is reviewing that.


Scott Wedel 3 years ago

Difficulty is defining "real safety issues". Sometimes old structures collapse. Thus, the fact that it is still standing doesn't automatically mean it is safe for future use.

A bunch of people died in a landslide in Washington St because the ground had not previously slid much.


jerry carlton 3 years ago

Common sense= any level of government. Not!


John Weibel 3 years ago

Well.. and engineered structures collapse Scott. Nothing is fool proof, yet trying to reasonably work with existing structures makes far more sense, then making it so difficult it makes more sense to tear down history of the valley to make something new at less cost.

Come out and take a level to the barn, having a county official actually walk through the structure might make sense. Yet, now that I am designing a firewall, for the expansion I was going to make when funds became available in the future (about now), I will not need to provide engineering for an ag structure that will remain an ag one.


John Weibel 3 years ago

By the way Scott, if we are engineering for the mudslide in WA, then I guess we should all live in a bubble so that we are all safe and no one gets hurt from anything. The odds of someone getting run over by an animal on a farm are far greater, than fire, building collapse, etc..

The issue of food safety is of paramount importance and irrigating with ditch water raises more concern than a firewall in a barn in my book. Given that ones product can be tested every time it is delivered for pathogens, as I did to provide some quality assurance, seems far more important than the trivial issue of actually measuring every beam and ensuring that they would hold Snow, Wind and Seismic loads of the valley. Simply looking at the structure for Rot, broken beams, etc. should give one reasonable assurance that the structure is safe to maintain its current use, though because an addition was added to "prepare the product for sale or storage/then we must ensure that it will continue to stand the test of time" wasting resources as now it has two uses commercial and ag.. Yet commerce does not occur here as people do not bring products to be sold nor do people come to buy them.


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