Routt County decides to not submit variance requests, wait for updates from state |

Routt County decides to not submit variance requests, wait for updates from state

Routt County did not receive approval to transition to the next recovery phase amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In an email sent Thursday, the state health department said the county needs to reduce the number of new cases before it can advance to Safer at Home Level 1.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County will not submit additional variance requests to loosen local restrictions ahead of an update from the state early next week on Colorado’s safer-at-home order. 

The decision came during a Routt County Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday. Commissioners had discussed draft possible variance requests that sought to reopen a variety of industries and services, from short-term rentals to fitness centers. 

In the end, the commissioners decided to wait until Gov. Jared Polis takes further action on the safer-at-home order, which is scheduled to expire Monday. Polis plans to announce updates, which could mean further easing of restrictions, on Tuesday.

Considering the update is just days away, it did not make sense for county staff to spend so much time and resources drafting variances that could become irrelevant with next week’s changes, the commissioners decided.

“We absolutely don’t have the staff capacity to put together a variance request before June 1, especially if that variance request ends up being unnecessary,” Commissioner Beth Melton said. 

Several restrictions already have been relaxed under the safer-at-home order. As of Wednesday, restaurants across the state could reopen with reduced capacity and with mitigation protocols in place, such as social distancing measures and strict sanitation guidelines. Summer day camps, private campsites and ski areas also received permission to reopen as long as they meet state guidelines.

In a meeting Wednesday, one of the commissioners’ priorities was to push for an earlier opening for short-term rentals. However, following discussions with local lodging representatives, it appears the state plans to lift the restrictions on these rentals after Monday.

Two areas for which the county might want to seek looser variances after Polis’ update include gyms and gathering sizes, Melton said. She has heard the state likely will not allow fitness centers to reopen next week and might restrict gatherings of more than 25 people.  

“Again, we don’t know anything for sure,” Melton said.

Commissioner Doug Monger emphasized his push to open more industries and services, such as gyms and playgrounds, that improve the lives of local residents.

“I want to make sure we are taking care of our locals as much as we can for their livelihood, their mental health and everything else,” he said.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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