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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of October 8 - 14, 2003


Sagewillow school standoff escalates

Community School files suit against SVEA

Express Staff Writer

The Community School, the Sun Valley-based private school, has filed a lawsuit to advance its plans to develop a new campus on its Sagewillow property in Elkhorn.

Attorneys for The Community School last week filed with the 5th District Court a civil complaint against the Sun Valley-Elkhorn Association, essentially asking the court to legally conclude that the homeowners’ group has no binding authority over the Sagewillow property.

J. Evan Robertson, lead attorney for The Community School, said the complaint is in part related to an effort by school officials to develop a new elementary-level campus on the 30-acre site.

At issue is whether the SVEA has the authority to regulate development of a new school campus on the Sagewillow site.

The city of Sun Valley earlier this 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 plans for 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.

Pursuant to their Sept. 29 complaint, attorneys for The Community School are essentially arguing that the Sagewillow property was never annexed into the SVEA and is therefore not subject to SVEA regulations and proceedings. "In a nutshell, our review indicates that that (annexation) was never done," Robertson said Monday.

The legal complaint states that The Community School, upon accepting the property as a gift in 1998, "was informed that the SVEA claimed an interest in the subject property and, pursuant to that claim, required approval from its architectural committee before (any) improvements could be constructed."

The complaint later states that "The Community School disputes that SVEA has or may claim an interest in the (Sagewillow) property."

In conclusion, the complaint asks the court to:

  • Confirm that The Community School holds "absolute fee simple title" to the Sagewillow site.

  • Render a judgment that the SVEA "be forever barred from asserting or claiming any right, title or interest" in the property.

  • Render a judgment that the restrictive covenants of the SVEA "are not enforceable against" The Community School.

  • Grant financial relief in the amount of $3,000.

SVEA officials declined Monday to comment on the complaint, noting that they had not yet been served the related legal documents.

The decision by the SVEA not to grant design approval to the Sagewillow project is not the only hurdle still facing The Community School. A contingent of homeowners along Arrowleaf Road—the only access road to and from the Sagewillow campus—in April filed a lawsuit against the city of Sun Valley for its decision to grant a conditional use permit for the school project.

Rand Peebles, Sun Valley city attorney, said last week that the lawsuit against the city is still unresolved. He noted that the city is trying to determine who will pay for the costs of developing transcripts of more than a dozen, often lengthy, city meetings on the 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—which would be the first phase of the development—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.



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