Friday, September 29, 2006

Eccles, Waldorf School dispute nears end

County leaders to decide fate of school in two weeks

Express Staff Writer

The fate of The Mountain School, an alternative school proposed for a two-acre lot just north of Bellevue and south of the Flying Hat Ranch, lies in the hands of the Blaine County Commission.

The school, linked to the Waldorf School, was initially approved by the county commissioners in 2005 but appealed by Spencer Eccles, owner of the Flying Hat Ranch. Eccles argued that the school was incompatible with the agricultural nature of the neighborhood.

The appeal was rejected by 5th District Court Judge Robert Elgee in January 2006.

But, The Mountain School, the brainchild of Katharine Woods, failed to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy by a set deadline. When the county granted an extension to the deadline, it was appealed by Eccles.

"We will issue a decision within two weeks," Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael said this week.

If the county commissioners decide to reject Eccles' appeal, The Mountain School, specific to preschool- and kindergarten-age children, will be allowed to commence operation in January 2007. If the commissioners accept the appeal, the school will have to file a new application.

On Tuesday, Jim Speck, a Ketchum attorney representing Woods, argued that the school is a "labor of love" for Woods and it would be a "benefit of the community and its children."

"I ask you to give it a chance to succeed," Speck told the commissioners.

The school, which would be located on a two-acre lot at 100 Mustang Lane on the west side of Highway 75, would incorporate organic farming and gardening and new approaches to "green" building design in its education.

The facility would include solar, energy efficient components and a greenhouse.

A total of about 20 children would be involved in the program each year.

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