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For the week of January 15 - 21, 2003


The Community School outlasts opponents

Permit to develop Sagewillow school approved

Express Staff Writer

Closing an application review that spanned nine months, Sun Valley Planning and Zoning commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved a conditional use permit for The Community School to construct a new elementary school on its 30-acre Sagewillow campus in Elkhorn.

The decision came at the end of an epic four-hour public hearing and discussion in which commissioners were explicitly asked by project representatives to come to a final decision.

"Let us try this," implored attorney and project representative J. Evan Robertson.

As discussion of the application went on, Robertson asked the P&Z to come to a firm determination on the plan. "We’re basically where we need you guys to … make a decision today and vote up or down," he said.

The vote in favor of the project came with a long, six-page set of conditions set forth by city officials and planners, primarily aimed at keeping the impacts of the project on neighboring residents to a minimum.

The Sagewillow campus is located in central Elkhorn, at the end of Arrowleaf Road. A contingent of residents of Arrowleaf Road and neighboring areas have opposed the plan, primarily because of concerns about an increase in vehicle traffic and noise.

Project opponent Sandra Bowman gave an impassioned speech against the construction of a school on the site zoned outdoor/recreation. "This solitude can’t be scoffed at," she said. "When it’s gone, it’s gone."

However, commissioners throughout the meeting—and at previous meetings in recent months—seemed determined to negotiate a deal that would permit the school without creating excessive environmental impacts.

The approved set of conditions includes provisions to severely limit the number of vehicles that can access the campus via Arrowleaf Road, and outlines penalties for the school if the conditions are violated.

The panel set a maximum number of vehicles that can enter or exit the site each month, based on an allowance of 400 vehicles per day during the week and 150 vehicles per day on weekends. The numbers would be adjusted to 480 vehicles per day during the week and 200 on the weekend during the months of September and October to accommodate soccer games and practices.

The school will be required to install a counter at its entrance at the end of Arrowleaf Road.

The restrictions state that the school will have to take immediate measures to reduce the number of vehicles passing through the neighborhood after its first violation, and must reduce its enrollment after the second violation.

The P&Z decision does not require approval of the Sun Valley City Council, but the project must still go through the city’s design review process.

As the first phase of the plan to develop the new elementary school, The Community School has proposed to construct several new structures, including a 6,700-square-foot administration and education building, a 4,550-square-foot "community room" and a 9,800-square-foot, two-story classroom building.

The proposal also calls for construction of an 800-square-foot caretaker’s residence and a 168-square-foot observatory.

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

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

The school is planning to open the new campus in 2004.


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