Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Court smiles at campus plan

Judge finds Sagewillow school appropriate land use

Express Staff Writer

"We think it's huge. It sets a standard for future development for The Community School in the City of Sun Valley."

Lori Labrum, School project manager

A decision by the Fifth District Court in Hailey may quiet neighborhood protest of a new elementary school proposed by The Community School for the Sagewillow campus in Elkhorn. On Thursday, Dec. 30, Fifth District Judge Robert Elgee affirmed the Sun Valley City Council's decision to grant a Conditional Use Permit for the school.

"We think it's huge. It sets a standard for future development for The Community School in the City of Sun Valley," Lori Labrum, Community School project manager, said.

Elgee denied all arguments of an appeal brought before the court at a Dec. 21 hearing by a group of Elkhorn homeowners.

"I am extremely happy on the way the judge ruled. I got the sense when the judge left the courtroom. Unfortunately, it has held us up for a year and half," Labrum said.

At issue was the Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission's approval of a Conditional Use Permit for a private elementary school in January 2003. The commission's decision was appealed and later affirmed by the Sun Valley City Council.

Following approval, a group of Elkhorn homeowners that own property on access roads to the proposed school, filed a petition for review against the city to appeal approval of the proposed elementary school.

The group of petitioners includes Doug and Meredith Carnahan, William and Marjorie Woodward, Steve and Nancy Wasilewski, William and Mary Jane Elmore and Oris and Bonnie Kirk, Sagewillow Homeowners Association, Sunpointe Chateaux Owners Association, Bluff Condominium Association, Fairway Nine II Condominium Association and Sunburst Condominium Association.

During the hearing, Hailey attorney Ned Williamson challenged the granted permit on behalf of the group of homeowners, arguing the proposed school failed to qualify for a Conditional Use Permit and that procedural errors, by the Sun Valley City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission, occurred during the approval process.

Elgee ruled in favor of the school, affirming the school as a permitted use within the Sun Valley's zoning ordinance. The zoning ordinance permits educational centers and schools for the public as conditional uses within the zone.

"It is not possible to read Section E and F of the zoning ordinance together, give them their plain, usual, and ordinary meaning, and glean from them any intention to keep a private school from obtaining a conditional use permit," Elgee's decision stated.

The decision continued that the conditions attached to the permit are adequately supported by public record and affirmed by a proper analysis of traffic numbers. The Court further decided the commission's finding of fact properly addressed and met CUP standards.

"The permit conditions are well thought out and constitute appropriate restrictions, which seek to minimize the impact of the school on the surrounding neighborhood."

Lastly, the judge decided transcripts adequately reflected public meetings. Williamson argued the transcripts contained omissions, gaps and summarized city meetings.

The court found the transcripts "rather thorough and meticulous."

Another dispute over the Sagewillow campus has yet to be resolved. The Community School filed a civil complaint against the Sun Valley-Elkhorn Association last year.

"At this point it is uncertain what will happen at Sagewillow. We should know in the next month in what direction the school will go," Labrum concluded.

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