The Community School outlasts opponents
Permit to develop Sagewillow school approved
By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer
Closing an application review that spanned nine
months, Sun Valley Planning and Zoning commissioners Tuesday unanimously
approved a conditional use permit for The Community School to construct a new
elementary school on its 30-acre Sagewillow campus in Elkhorn.
The decision came at the end of an epic four-hour
public hearing and discussion in which commissioners were explicitly asked by
project representatives to come to a final decision.
"Let us try this," implored attorney and project
representative J. Evan Robertson.
As discussion of the application went on, Robertson
asked the P&Z to come to a firm determination on the plan. "We’re basically
where we need you guys to … make a decision today and vote up or down," he said.
The vote in favor of the project came with a long,
six-page set of conditions set forth by city officials and planners, primarily
aimed at keeping the impacts of the project on neighboring residents to a
The Sagewillow campus is located in central
Elkhorn, at the end of Arrowleaf Road. A contingent of residents of Arrowleaf
Road and neighboring areas have opposed the plan, primarily because of concerns
about an increase in vehicle traffic and noise.
Project opponent Sandra Bowman gave an impassioned
speech against the construction of a school on the site zoned
outdoor/recreation. "This solitude can’t be scoffed at," she said. "When it’s
gone, it’s gone."
However, commissioners throughout the meeting—and
at previous meetings in recent months—seemed determined to negotiate a deal that
would permit the school without creating excessive environmental impacts.
The approved set of conditions includes provisions
to severely limit the number of vehicles that can access the campus via
Arrowleaf Road, and outlines penalties for the school if the conditions are
The panel set a maximum number of vehicles that can
enter or exit the site each month, based on an allowance of 400 vehicles per day
during the week and 150 vehicles per day on weekends. The numbers would be
adjusted to 480 vehicles per day during the week and 200 on the weekend during
the months of September and October to accommodate soccer games and practices.
The school will be required to install a counter at
its entrance at the end of Arrowleaf Road.
The restrictions state that the school will have to
take immediate measures to reduce the number of vehicles passing through the
neighborhood after its first violation, and must reduce its enrollment after the
The P&Z decision does not require approval of the
Sun Valley City Council, but the project must still go through the city’s design
As the first phase of the plan to develop the new
elementary school, The Community School has proposed to construct several new
structures, including a 6,700-square-foot administration and education building,
a 4,550-square-foot "community room" and a 9,800-square-foot, two-story
The proposal also calls for construction of an
800-square-foot caretaker’s residence and a 168-square-foot observatory.
Additional phases would include a library,
additional classrooms and a multi-purpose structure. Opening-year enrollment
will be limited to 132 students, and enrollment upon completion of the entire
development was set at 190 students.
The project—including improvements to the existing
Trail Creek campus—has been estimated to cost $10 million.
The school is planning to open the new campus in