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For the week of June 11 - 17, 2003

News

Sagewillow school reaches finish—almost

P&Z approves design of 
project’s first phase


By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer

In a subdued and expedient close to a long and often turbulent saga, Sun Valley Planning and Zoning commissioners Tuesday, June 10, issued design approval to The Community School for its plans to develop a new elementary campus on its Sagewillow property in Elkhorn.

After crafting a set of 17 detailed conditions, the panel voted unanimously to approve the design and layout of the first phase of the project, which includes plans for three buildings at the 30-acre site.

Lori Labrum, project manager for The Community School, applauded softly after the motion by Commissioner Mark Pynn was endorsed.

Comments from the commissioners were few during the 90-minute review. "I think you did a good job," said Commissioner Blair Boand, after seeing a revised set of lighting plans for the project.

The vote was a critical victory for The Community School, whose representatives have appeared before the P&Z more than a dozen times in the last 13 months to promote the project. The P&Z will likely be scheduled to formally approve the findings of fact and conditions for the project at its next meeting June 24.

However, the school has not cleared all of the hurdles necessary to immediately proceed with the project. A lawsuit filed against the city for its decision to approve a conditional-use permit for the project is yet to be resolved. In addition, the P&Z decision rendered Tuesday can be appealed and brought to the Sun Valley City Council for further consideration.

At issue Tuesday was a plan by The Community School to develop three buildings on the Sagewillow site that would total approximately 21,000 square feet.

As the first phase of its development plans, the school proposed to construct a new "Community Room" building and a separate classroom building, as well as to convert the existing stables on the property into an administrative building and "Early Childhood Center," or preschool.

An approximately 170-square-foot observatory that was originally planned to be included in the first phase of construction has been put on hold indefinitely.

Commissioners Tuesday determined that an Events Management Plan—designed to regulate school sports and cultural events on the campus—must be completed this summer for review by the P&Z on Aug. 26. The school will not be issued a building permit for the project until the plan is deemed adequate and approved by the city, the panel decided.

Other conditions of approval will strictly limit parking stalls, indoor and outdoor lighting, and the use of the public portion of Arrowleaf Road for loading or unloading students.

No public testimony was taken Tuesday. Commissioners did review two letters pertaining to the project, including one from Elkhorn resident Charlie Foss objecting to the project because of potential traffic, noise, pollution and the loss of open space.

The Community School submitted its design-review application for the project after an approximately nine-month battle to gain approval of a conditional-use permit for the plan. The P&Z in January unanimously approved the CUP with a long, six-page set of conditions.

The CUP approval was appealed by three groups to the Sun Valley City Council, which ultimately upheld the P&Z decision. However, a contingent of residents who live along Arrowleaf Road—the only access point to and from the proposed school—in April filed a lawsuit against the city claiming that it acted unlawfully in issuing the permit.

The design-review approval issued Tuesday will pertain only to the first phase of the project. Additional phases would likely include a library, additional classrooms and a multi-purpose structure.

The project—including improvements to the school’s existing Trail Creek campus—has been estimated to cost $10 million.

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.