Moffat County Commission approves youth camp permit |

Moffat County Commission approves youth camp permit

Approval for Browns Park camp comes with stipulations

Ben McCanna

The Moffat County Commission approved, 2-0, a conditional use permit Tuesday for Mountain Homes Youth Ranch to operate in Browns Park.

The vote comes a week after the commission hosted a public hearing on the matter. More than 20 community members attended the public hearing to speak in support and opposition of the Utah-based outdoor program for troubled teens.

Commissioner Audrey Danner did not vote on the issue.

"I was not here last week due to my attendance at another meeting, so I think it's appropriate that I recuse myself," she said.

She participated in the discussion.

The discussion began with commissioners Tom Gray and Tom Mathers determining that Mountain Home Youth Ranch is a licensed residential child care facility, and an acceptable business within an area zoned for agriculture.

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Next, the commissioners focused on nine criteria from the Moffat County Zoning Resolution and Subdivision Regulation Manual. To obtain a conditional use permit, a business must not adversely impact those criteria, or be willing to mitigate impacts by following commission-issued stipulations.

At least week's hearing, community members weighed in on the ranch's impact. At Tuesday's meeting, the commission ruled on the criteria.

First, the commission determined the ranch was compatible with Browns Park.

"I really think it's compatible because the area is used for camping, hunting," Mathers said. "This is basically a wilderness survival class. I feel like it's a good place for this."

Next, the commissioners decided the youth ranch would need to adhere to a buffer zone to comply with separation from dissimilar uses.

Regarding traffic volume, the commission agreed the ranch does have an impact. That impact, they said, could be mitigated through fees paid to the county.

Next, the commission said any impact on the area's established character could be mitigated by the buffer zone.

Regarding offensive noise, vibration, smoke, dust, odors, heat, glare or unsightly aspects, the commission cited dust as an impact. In last week's meeting, several community members mentioned dust from the ranch's vehicles.

The commission said money from fees could pay for the county to treat area roads with magnesium water, which reduces dust.

The commission agreed some criteria was irrelevant to the ranch, such as utilities and sanitary facilities, conformance with property development standards, and scarring of the land.

After evaluating the criteria, the commission offered nine stipulations for the ranch's conditional use permit:

• No one older than age 18 shall attend the program.

• The ranch shall not erect camps within three miles of a residence, and campers may not conduct activities more than one mile from their camp location.

• The ranch will not have an enrollment of more than 40 youths per session.

• The ranch will pay Moffat County a $200 surcharge for each youth to mitigate increased traffic on county roads.

• The ranch will pay for any road damage.

• The ranch will notify the Moffat County Sheriff's Office and area residents with locations of each campsite.

• The ranch will notify the Moffat County Sheriff's Office and area residents of any runaway youths and provide updates when runaways are found.

• The ranch will comply with all state regulations.

• The ranch will maintain fire insurance of at least $1 million, and abide by all local fire restrictions.

Then, the commissioners moved to approve the permit.

Mathers acknowledged that not everyone would be pleased by the vote.

"I'm going to vote for this," he said. "We tried through this whole process — because some people absolutely did not want this in their area and private property rights on both sides were being affected — so, we tried through this mitigation to try to make it to where everybody got maybe a little bit of what they wanted."

After the vote, Greystone resident John Watt addressed the commission.

"Gentlemen, I can't help but think you've brought a clear and present danger into our community by your decision today," he said.

Watt cited an incident in November 2010 in which four juvenile males from the ranch allegedly broke into a home owned by Monty Sheridan.

"Does the Monty Sheridan incident mean so little that we don't worry about this happening again in our community," Watt asked.

Mathers responded.

"In other words, the one bad apple syndrome should take effect here?" he said.

Watt disagreed with the commissioner's logic.

"You're allowing more bad apples to continually come through the county. That's my concern," he said.

Gray said he and Mathers both recognized the added risk.

"That's why we added the stipulations," he said.

Watt said the commission's stipulations aren't enough.

"I hope we don't come to a point someday in the future where we've regretted your decision today," he said.

Gray said Greystone residents ultimately played a role in shaping the conditional use permit.

"I just want to say to you guys, you had an impact," he said.

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In other action:

At its regular meeting today, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 3-0, amending a contract for fence repair and replacement at Loudy-Simpson Park to extend the completion date from May 15 to July 15.

• Approved, 3-0, a special construction contract with Qwest to install communication lines to the Moffat County Courthouse.

• Approved, 3-0, a contact with Prather Productions to add a life skills program to the Department of Social Services.

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