Routt County gives owner of remote compound in the Dunckley Flat Tops more time to get permits
February 11, 2014
Steamboat Springs — The Routt County Board of Commissioners stopped short Tuesday of suing Craig resident Bill Terrill, 77, for failing to obtain building permits for several log structures and operating a remote guest lodge without a permit. But they did give him a really big homework assignment.
In exchange for a promise that he would immediately cease all commercial operations at his Dunckley Peak Outfitters in the Flat Tops south of Hayden, the commissioners agreed to give Terrill until March 11 to meet with a county planning and health department official, as well as consult with private building professionals, to devise a formal plan to bring his 160-acre property into compliance with county regulations.
Terrill acknowledged that he had not sought building permits from Routt County in advance of building his own home, a covered outdoor entertaining space and a two-story log outhouse.
"I am wrong. I am telling you that," Terrill said during the meeting with the commissioners. "How can I get a building permit when it's already built?"
He added that he built his home in Craig without a building department and didn't understand that he needed to get a permit to build on his parcel on the edge of the Little Dunckley Flat Tops. The property, accessed by Routt County Road 29, is only accessible by vehicle from mid-June until about mid-September most years, he said.
Building Department official Carl Dunham told Terrill that there is a way for him to get his building permits after the fact, but that he would have to retain engineers to study his buildings and determine if they are up to county specs and then, even if they meet building code, Terrill would be charged double fees.
"You still have to provide us with plans and specs for the buildings," Dunham said. "You get an engineer to come out, they take what they see, either certify it as structurally sound or there may be some (necessary modifications). We'll do inspections based on the plans from the engineers' reports and issue a certificate of occupancy."
Terrill said he has been under the impression since June 2013 that the county's main concern was the fact that he allowed hunting from his property. Since then, he has limited his commercial outfitting to horse-packing drop camps for clients. It was last June that he invited county officials to visit Dunckley Peak Outfitters and confirm that it pre-dated county zoning regulations, making it eligible for grandfather status. Instead, county officials determined that his use of the land was out of compliance, and they began a series of requests, asking him to apply for a permit.
County Planner Chad Phillips told Terrill on Tuesday that it actually was the fact that he charged guests for overnight stays that made a permit necessary.
"The lodging is the big issue," Phillips said. "The ag/forestry zone district tightly limits what commercial activity can happen" there.
The county commissioners were contemplating the possibility of suing Terrill to get his attention and compel him to meet their requirements. County Attorney John Merrill advocated for filing the suit to formally establish what the county wanted done and what timeline it expected Terrill to meet.
"May I suggest we file a lawsuit and make stipulations?" Merrill asked the commissioners. "We're not interested in having a lawsuit (as much as) we're interested in getting results. You would have a timeline for all of the tasks that need to be done. From the standpoint of our own interests, we'd be reasonable so we don't have to do something else later."
Commissioner Doug Monger said he wanted staff to try to bring Terrill's building and septic system in compliance without filing a suit.
Commission Chairman Tim Corrigan said he was concerned about whether Terrill could accomplish all of the necessary tasks.
"My fear is that you've got a lot to do here to comply with all of these requirements that we have," including a formal site plan, Corrigan said.
The commissioners assigned Assistant County Attorney Erick Knaus to write Merrill a formal letter detailing what was expected of him by March 11, when a hearing to revisit the matter will be held.