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  • Dylan Anderson

Should large events like SBT GRVL need Commissioner approval to use Routt County roads?

The Routt County Commissioners intend to form a working group to review the county’s special event permitting process for the second straight year after complaints from rural residents.

The Routt County Commissioners will review the process to permit special events on county roads for the second straight year after rural residents and ranchers have aired frustrations with some of these events — particularly SBT GRVL.

This year’s SBT GRVL bike race included several courses, roughly 3,000 riders and used 128 miles of Routt County roads. It has also drawn the ire of ranchers who complain about poor communication about the event ahead of time, roads filled with racers that become impassable on race day and riders opting to relieve themselves on their property, among other issues.

SBT GRVL has hosted several listening sessions with rural residents in recent months to address issues ahead of next year’s event and has stressed they want to work with the community to better the situation. Still, an October meeting before the commissioners saw the hearing room filled with residents frustrated with the gravel bike race, many who own property along the race course, according to reporting from Steamboat Radio. 

This has commissioners wanting to review the special event permitting process again by creating a working group to consider a different system that would make a recommendation before next summer’s events are permitted. One potential outcome of this working group would be large events like SBT GRVL needing commissioner approval to use county roads.

Commissioners had a broad discussion on Monday, saying this working group should consider whether the county should have a cap on the total number of special events on county roads, where in the county various events take place, the event’s activity type, specific impact areas and whether permits for certain events should ultimately need commissioner approval.

Currently, there are two tiers of special event permits on Routt County Roads, specifically events under 1,000 participants and events over 1,000 participants. Commissioners said this two-tier system isn’t working as well as hoped though, and maybe they should consider more tiers. It also could take into account the type of event and not just the number of participants.

“I’m kind of thinking about this through the lens of the planning department where low-level things get administrative approval, mid-level things get a conditional use permit and high-level things actually come to the commissioners,” said Commissioner Tim Corrigan.

“At what point do we need to have more of a public hearing process around these permits?” Commissioner Sonja Macys said. “If there are significant flags, it needs to become a public process.”  

Corrigan suggested this working group should include County Manager Jay Harrington, Public Works Director Mike Mordi, someone from the planning department, someone from the Sheriff’s Office, and then a commissioner. Commissioner Tim Redmond and Macys then nominated Corrigan to be that commissioner.

Currently, with large events over 1,000 people, the event organizers need to consult the Routt County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Patrol, and impacted fire districts as well as having a traffic plan and event insurance. These are reviewed by Routt County Road and Bridge staff, who then permit the event.

If larger events were brought before commissioners for approval, it would allow the public to weigh in before the event and could lead to commissioners requiring more mitigation efforts for various impacts.

While they may put more scrutiny on these events, Commissioners said they were not looking to push these events away entirely.

“That’s the spectrum — no events or unlimited events,” Corrigan said. “We’re going to arrive at something in between.”

Top Photo Caption: SBT GRVL bike race has been the focus of much of the special event permiting discussion. (Routt County/Courtesy)


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