Cedar Ridge Ranch says recent violations noted by Garfield County resolved; neighbors beg to differ
Owners of the Cedar Ridge Ranch guest operation near Carbondale say they’ve addressed recent code violations related to safety concerns and unpermitted uses noted by Garfield County.
Ranch co-owner Merrill Johnson said Tuesday that she and her co-owner parents, Pam and Randy Johnson, expect to get the all-clear from county Code Enforcement Officer Wade Patton in a formal letter this week.
“I spoke to Wade today, and he said they are sending a letter showing that everything has been taken care of, and we are no longer in violation,” she said.
County officials, during a Monday meeting when neighbors of the ranch told county commissioners that the violations have persisted, indicated that a follow-up letter to the ranch owners is being prepared. The contents of that letter were not revealed, however.
“There is a letter being drafted for the property owners from code enforcement summarizing (the issues),” said Renelle Lott, public information officer for the county. “As part of due process, the property owners will be notified first, and then the document will be available through the open records request process for anyone with interest in the matter.”
A Dec. 28, 2021, Notice of Violation from the county, obtained by the Post Independent through a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request, noted several complaints from neighbors about the ranch operation.
Most related to the use of electric blankets and open-flame cooking and heating devices in the guest tents and cabin, dogs running off leash, use of the barn for unpermitted commercial activities and illegal fire pits.
The ranch owners were given 10 days to correct the violations and to submit to a site visit by county code enforcement. That site inspection occurred, Johnson said, and the alleged violations were discussed.
“There were a couple of things we had to do and change,” she said. “And a couple things were just getting a better understanding of (allowed) land use.”
One clarification had to do with dogs off leash, Johnson said. She said it was determined that leash rules apply to dogs belonging to guests, but not to the working ranch dogs.
The county action came following a lengthy “informational” meeting before the county commissioners on Dec. 7, when neighbors of the ranch raised several concerns, ranging from wildfire danger and water contamination to trespassing and harassment.
In a Dec. 30 letter to the neighbors, also obtained through the CORA request, Patton confirmed the county was looking into complaints related to land-use codes.
“Some of the complaints were dismissed after investigation,” Patton wrote. “A number of complaints stem from authority outside the county’s land-use regulations.”
Among those were claims about animal carcasses being illegally dumped, which would come under Colorado Parks and Wildlife or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, he advised.
Issues related to fire restrictions are also better addressed by the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District. Ditch and well water rights fall to the State Division of Water Resources, he also advised.
“The county certainly understands concerns in these categories, but county land-use regulations and permitting may not be the legal enforcement arm for all such issues.”
Former ranch hand and neighbor Brian McCarthy and two other adjacent neighbors, Ashley Paige and Peter Athans, addressed the county commissioners Monday.
They said that, despite the ranch operators’ assurances, the recent violations persist, as do others dating back several years since before the guest operation was formally permitted in June 2018.
They asked for a formal permit revocation hearing to be scheduled before the commissioners.
Commissioners said that would have to occur through the formal code violation investigations process.
Cedar Ridge Ranch is approved for seasonal agritourism operation of four overnight guest units, including three yurt/tents and one cabin. A followup request to allow additional commercial uses, including creative spaces, was applied for in 2019 but was not permitted by the county.
Neighbors say unpermitted operations, including rental of the guest facilities during the winter months and large events, appear to be happening without proper facilities or county approval.
“They’ve ignored all of these violations as far as I can tell,” McCarthy said Monday. “They’ve never been held accountable, and are emboldened to a point of recklessness.”
Paige said she has had a hard time obtaining documentation from the county regarding what is approved and what isn’t, and that many older violations still haven’t been rectified.
“The county has been kicking the can down the road on this since 2016,” she said.
The contentions have also apparently played out outside the county meeting room, including allegations of verbal altercations between the neighbors, trespassing and threats of physical harm.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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