Carbondale-area ‘agri-tourism’ proposal wins county approval

Matthew Bennett
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
One of the rooms at Cedar Ridge Ranch near Carbondale where "farm-to-table" events are held. Garfield County commissioners on Monday OK'd plans for other amenities to expand the agri-tourism guest ranch.
Courtesy Photo

An ambitious plan to bring agri-tourism amenities to a ranch in Missouri Heights north of Carbondale won approval from Garfield County commissioners in a split vote Monday, despite concerns from some neighbors.

Numerous community members were in attendance at a public hearing before the commissioners Monday afternoon. Commissioners John Martin, Tom Jankovsky and Mike Samson heard a couple of hours of testimony regarding Cedar Ridge Ranch’s plans to go forth with the plan.

Applicants Randy and Pam Johnson requested a land-use change that would grant the property owners their goal of utilizing a community event and meeting center roughly five miles northeast of Carbondale. The Johnsons also petitioned commissioners for lodging and creative spaces on their property.

According to a presentation by the applicant’s representatives, the goals of the project include to, “create a model agri-tourism farm to provide a diverse, long-term, hopefully year-round income source,” allow “small events/meetings celebrations and small group activities,” as well as to, “lease out 10 ‘creative spaces’ to professionals, art and creative enterprises.”

However, after being denied for a previous proposal in 2017 the ranch owners had to make considerable changes over the course of the last year. Commissioners conducted a site visit last week to see, firsthand, if the applicants made the necessary changes ahead of the formal hearing.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, commissioners heard from proponents like Carbondale business owner Marcus Thackston.

Thackston told the Post Independent in a separate interview, “I’m in support of this. I’ve been working for my entire career, really, in the tourism and hospitality industry in Colorado and abroad.”

Thackston continued, “We don’t have a very diverse stream of revenue for our valleys here. … I think it’s important to diversify that to build strong communities.”

Opponents in attendance, including many neighbors of the Johnsons themselves, argued that they did not want to see this type of development anywhere near their properties.

However, the main issue with the commissioners came down to the availability of adequate water. And, specifically, whether or not there was enough that could sustain a business model like the Johnsons proposed.

Commissioner Jankovsky acknowledged the neighbors’ complaints but ultimately sided in favor of both motions to approve the project, with a few revisions.

Commissioner Martin emphasized how he believes government should not get in the way of business, and said he “loved the passion.” Still, he said he believed that the idea would be a “tremendous problem when it came to making it a reality,” and voted against the proposal.

Commissioner Samson sided with Jankovsky in casting the deciding vote, and motions on the two separate applications passed 2-1.

In approving the plans, however, the Johnsons’ original proposal of 10 lodging units was amended to allow only four. Uncertainties still loom with issues surrounding water court and other mitigations that remain pending.


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