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Friday — March 26, 2004


Sagewillow school plan prompts new lawsuit

Express Staff Writer

A group of homeowners in the Sagewillow subdivision of Elkhorn has filed a lawsuit seeking to force additional review of The Community School’s proposal to develop a new campus in the neighborhood.

The lawsuit—which is the third to dispute rulings on the controversial project—adds one more hurdle in the Sun Valley-based private school’s long-term plans.

Lori Labrum, project manager for the school, said this week that plans to proceed with developing a new elementary-school campus on the school’s 30-acre Sagewillow property are indefinitely on hold until the lawsuits are resolved.

The most recent suit directly challenges an effort by The Community School to overcome objections to the project by the Sun Valley-Elkhorn Association homeowners’ group.

In 5th District Court in Hailey on March 15, the Sagewillow Homeowners Association filed a complaint against the SVEA, seeking an injunction that prevents the SVEA from allowing the Sagewillow campus to be found exempt from SVEA governance.

The suit is clearly in response to a September 2003 suit by The Community School against the SVEA, in which the school asked the court to legally conclude that the SVEA has no binding authority over the Sagewillow property.

The debate over the project has been contentious.

The city of Sun Valley last year granted design-review approval and a conditional use permit to The Community School to proceed with the first phase of the Sagewillow project, which includes three buildings.

However, after the city approved the project, the architectural committee of the SVEA declined to lend its approval to the plans. The SVEA generally reviews the design of all construction projects located on lands that are incorporated in its master association.

In their suit, attorneys for The Community School essentially argued that the Sagewillow property was never annexed into the SVEA and is therefore not subject to SVEA regulations and proceedings.

Their complaint asked the court to confirm that The Community School holds "absolute fee-simple title" to the Sagewillow site and to render a judgment that the SVEA "be forever barred from asserting or claiming any right, title or interest" in the property.

In its winter 2004 newsletter, the SVEA noted that its governing board in December 2003 "voted to vigorously defend its interest in the Community School Sagewillow campus."

SVEA officials this week said they could not comment on the new lawsuit.

In a third suit still pending, a contingent of homeowners along Arrowleaf Road—the only access road to and from the Sagewillow campus—in April 2003 filed a complaint against the city of Sun Valley for its decision to grant a conditional use permit for the school project.

With the CUP, the city granted The Community School permission to develop three buildings on the Sagewillow site that would total approximately 21,000 square feet.

The buildings would include a new "Community Room" building and a classroom building. In addition, the existing stables on the Sagewillow property would be converted into an administrative building and preschool.

The Community School is currently seeking to gain city approval for an operational plan to conduct events on the Sagewillow site. Approval of such a plan is a requirement of the city’s broader approval of the project permit.

On Tuesday, March 23, Sun Valley Planning and Zoning commissioners—amid objections from some Sagewillow area residents—delayed approving a proposed events plan.

The P&Z is scheduled to review a revised plan on April 27.


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