School district buys Silverthorne site |

School district buys Silverthorne site

FRISCO – A dollar might buy a long-distance call, but $10 can fetch about nine acres of land – for the Summit School District, anyway.

Superintendent Wes Smith announced Wednesday night at the regular meeting of the school board that the district paid $10 for just under nine acres on what is known as the Smith Ranch property toward the north end of Silverthorne, off Highway 9.

Tom Garvin of Seminole Land Holdings, the company behind the Silver Mountain Village and Blue River Club developments, signed the deed over to the school district Aug. 16. Smith said he waited to announce the deal until research had been done on the land title.

“We have told our architect to do no more work on the current school site and to shift their focus to the Smith Ranch,” Smith said. “I was very doubtful we could do it, but at the 11th hour Tom gave us the deed.”

The land has an estimated value of about $3 million and is being appraised. An adjacent 1-acre site also will be used for a preschool, Smith said.

As part of a 10-year facilities plan, the school board identified a need for a new elementary school in Silverthorne. The current school on Brian Avenue, built in 1972, is in disrepair; problems include roof leaks, aging mechanical and heating systems and no more available power for technology such as computers. A new school could be built on the current site but would force the school district to demolish the existing building.

School district officials preferred the Smith Ranch site because it preserved the existing building and property for future use and gave them a new school on land convenient to two proposed housing developments.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the school district,” Smith said. “To renovate the existing building would have cost as much as building a new one, and it would still be a 1970s building.”

By preserving the current Silverthorne elementary, the school district can prepare for future community educational needs and explore new programs. Proposed uses for the school include a mountain-area cooperative vocational training center, a new home for school district administration offices and public recreation and gathering facilities.

Seminole Land Holdings and their partners are seeking annexation by Silverthorne because approximately 344 acres of the land needed for the two projects lies in Summit County. The annexation into Silverthorne would give the developers the permitted density to build their desired project. Silver Mountain Village and the Blue River Club would add about 538 housing units to Silverthorne’s bed base, as well as more than 85,000 square feet of commercial space, including a proposed grocery store.

A major stumbling block for the school district was the cost of infrastructure needed to support the school.

“If Safeway comes in, they’ll do most or all of the utilities and sewer,” Smith said. “If not, the district will front the money and get reimbursed at the time any development takes place on the site.”

The reimbursement would cover about 40 percent of the school district’s cost. Safeway executives continue to negotiate with the developers and Silverthorne town staff. Plans for the developments are still in the approval process with the town.

Silverthorne Mayor Lou DelPiccolo returned from vacation Wednesday night and said he had not yet reviewed the full details of the deal, but he said it was good news.

“This has always been the preferred site,” DelPiccolo said. “We’re definitely going to do everything that is within our purview to move forward. This is a favorable development.”

Smith gave credit to school board members Jennifer Brauns and Jim Lenzotti in closing the deal. But Smith likely deserves credit, as well: He’s known Garvin for 32 years, since the pair were neighbors in graduate school in Boulder. Garvin could not be reached for comment.

Groundbreaking for the new school is scheduled to begin next spring, and the school should be ready to open in 2005. The construction budget is estimated at $11 million, paid for by Summit voters who approved a construction mill levy increase to property taxes in November 2001.

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