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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of October 9 - 15, 2002


Sun Valley P&Z delays vote on Elkhorn school

Measures to reduce traffic, 
noise still at issue

Express Staff Writer

Sitting before a packed chambers Tuesday, Sun Valley Planning and Zoning commissioners voted unanimously to continue to a future date their consideration of an application by The Community School to construct and operate a new elementary school on its Sagewillow campus in Elkhorn.

Architect Mark Cork shows Sun Valley P&Z commissioners changes made to a design for a new elementary school at The Community School’s Sagewillow campus. Looking on are project manager Lori Labrum, right, and P&Z Commissioner Ken Herich. Express photos by Willy Cook

"What I’ve seen, I don’t believe will work," Commissioner Blair Boand said, echoing sentiments of other commissioners that efforts made by project representatives to mitigate the effects of vehicle traffic and noise were inadequate.

The move by commissioners to continue their review of the project was the fifth of its kind, with four previous meetings in May and June ending in the same result.

However, in rendering a 6-0 decision to resume a public hearing on the school’s proposal at a regular P&Z meeting Dec. 10, all members of the panel suggested that they are not inherently opposed to the plan to locate a school at the approximately 30-acre site.

Project supporter Joan Lamb said a new campus for The Community School would be an asset to Sun Valley, and urged opponents of the plan to consider relocating away from the proposed site in Elkhorn. Express photos by Willy Cook

After campus neighbor and project opponent Douglas Carnahan demanded that the panel "drive a stake in the ground" and vote against the application for a Conditional Use Permit for the school, P&Z Chairman Jim McLaughlin asked each member whether he might vote in favor of the plan if significant mitigation measures were made to address a long list of concerns raised by a large contingent of Elkhorn residents.

One by one, commissioners said they could—in concept—support construction of a school at the site if strict, well-defined conditions were developed and included in the permit.

Before calling for a motion to table the plan, McLaughlin outlined a specific list of issues that the P&Z wants addressed by the applicants before the matter is discussed again in December. He demanded that the school’s project representative, Lori Labrum, and attorney, J. Evan Robertson, work to reduce future car traffic into the neighborhood; devise ways to lessen the noise impacts of the proposed school; design additional parking areas; redesign a proposed bike path configured to link with the city path system; outline the number of school-related events slated to take place at the site, and provide a detailed construction schedule for the three-phase project.

As the first phase of the plan to develop a new elementary school campus at the outdoor/recreation-zoned site, The Community School proposed to construct:

  • Three new structures between the site’s existing soccer fields, including a 6,790-square-foot administration and education building, a 4,550-square-foot "community room" and a 9,800-square-foot, two-story classroom building.

  • An 800-square-foot caretaker’s residence northwest of the main development.

  • A 168-square-foot observatory, also northwest of the campus center.

  • A bike path to link the campus to the primary city path along Elkhorn Road.

  • Several road improvements, a new access road, and a noise-mitigation fence and new landscaping.

Additional phases would include a library, additional classrooms and a multi-purpose structure. Opening-year enrollment was proposed to be 132 students, and enrollment upon completion of the entire development was set at 190 students.

School headmaster Jon Maksik on Monday estimated the entire project would cost approximately $10 million. He said the school would like to open the new facility in 2004.

Labrum and Robertson Tuesday presented to the P&Z several revisions to the plan which were designed to meet demands made by commissioners during their last hearing on the application June 25. The representatives told the panel they devised a plan to bus to school some 40 willing students living in the southern part of the Wood River Valley to decrease the amount of car traffic on Arrowleaf Road— the main access road to the campus.

Labrum said the busing program would be implemented next year to and from the existing Trail Creek campus, and then extended to the new Sagewillow site.

A city report on the busing plan noted that the applicants estimated that the initiative would decrease car trips to the Sagewillow campus by approximately 47-percent, from 806 total trips to 432 trips.

"I think the school is willing to commit to growing the bus system," Robertson said.

City Administrator Dan Pincetich said he did not believe the proposed busing program would provide a nearly 50-decrease in traffic, noting that many parents might still visit the campus during school hours.

During a spirited public hearing, several Sagewillow area residents said they thought the measures offered by the applicants to reduce traffic and noise—including the busing plan—were entirely inadequate.

"The location of a campus in Elkhorn seems ludicrous at best," said neighborhood resident Charlie Foss, noting that he believed a campus located south of Sun Valley would be more appropriate.

Carnahan, a resident of Arrowleaf Road, said he thought the mitigation measures proposed by the applicants were "piecemeal" and would be difficult to monitor. "The proposal is just not a good fit for them, or for their neighbors that they would have," he said.

Some of the approximately 75 attendees at the meeting did speak in favor of the new school. "Young kids love to ride on buses," said Joan Lamb, a member of the school’s parents’ association.

Immediately before the panel chose to continue the hearing, Pincetich suggested that commissioners set an absolute limit on the number of cars that can access the campus at 300 or 400.

In response, McLaughlin scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 23, a special P&Z workshop meeting to discuss traffic capacity at the site.



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