Routt County commissioners could sue Flat Tops outfitter

— Routt County Commissioners could decide Tuesday to file a lawsuit against a Craig man they believe has been operating a hunting guest ranch on the edge of the Flat Tops without the necessary permits.

Dunckley Peak Outfitters, also commonly referred to as Bill’s Cabin or Terrill’s Cabin, is accessed via Routt County Road 55, which follows the East Fork of the Williams Fork River south of Hayden. It comprises 160 acres in the Little Dunckley Flat Tops.

“Mr. Terrill has been operating a guided hunting service, which provides overnight accommodations and food service without the appropriate permits,” County Planner Alan Goldich wrote in a Jan. 22 memo to the county commissioners. “None of the structures on the property have received building permits.”

Ironically, it was Dunckley Peak Outfitters owner Bill Terrill who last June invited Goldich and County Planning Director Chad Phillips to visit his remote compound in an aspen forest. He hoped to persuade them his buildings, including a two-story outhouse, and business were eligible to be forgiven modern planning regulations because of their long-standing status – Routt County zoning regulations weren’t adopted until 1972, and pre-existing uses are often “grandfathered” into compliance.

Instead, county officials determined that he built a number of buildings in the 1990s, including a single-family residence, without obtaining the necessary building permits, and was operating a commercial operation without a special use permit.

“I had them up there to inspect it, and at that time, I told them I bought it in 1969 and it should be grandfathered,” Terrill told Steamboat Today on Monday. “They wanted me to prove I’d been taking hunters since I bought it. The problem is, most of the guys I guided are dead now.”

Goldich said Monday that according to Terrill's Web page, he operates hunting, fishing and snowmobiling outings as well as gatherings and parties. Terrill said in a phone interview that he has simplified his operation, applied for a pack permit and received it.

“The Forest Service has not had a problem with me,” he said.

Goldich wrote that during the June visit to the property, Terrill confirmed that he housed clients on the premises.

“Staff inspected his property and observed a cabin that was built in 1917, which Mr. Terrill informed us is where his guests stay," Goldich wrote. "Staff also observed several more structures. They include a single family residence (built in1996), a two-story outhouse (built in 1994), a barn and a tack shed with an attached covered outdoor entertaining space (built in 1998).”

In a review of documents presented in an unrelated civil suit involving Terrill but not Routt County, County Attorney John Merrill found reason to believe Terrill’s claim to grandfather status was unwarranted.

“Staff was in the process of drafting a letter which confirmed his ‘grandfathered’ status when John Merrill informed Staff of a court case which stated that Mr. Terrill had not started commercial operation until 1993,” Goldich wrote in the Jan. 22 memo. “After reviewing the court document, Staff revised its findings and informed Mr. Terrill that he would need to receive a special use permit in order to continue his operation.”

Terrill said Monday he was still under the impression that his grandfathered status was in good standing, but Phillips said otherwise.

“We gave him the option of filing for a special use permit and coming in compliance, or appealing for an administrative decision in front of Planning Commission. He didn’t take either, so here we are,” Phillips said.

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

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