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Silverthorne has no answer for school district

SILVERTHORNE – The Summit School District board had hoped to leave Silverthorne’s Town Council meeting Wednesday with six acres of land for a new elementary school. It did not.

Citing too many unresolved land issues, the town council voted to continue its consideration of the land conveyance to its March 26 meeting. Despite that action, most council members said they support the district’s proposal to build a school on the town-owned land.

The school district plans to build a $12 million elementary school at Cottonwood Park, a town parcel located at Highway 9 and Hamilton Creek Road.



While many neighbors and council members said they’re concerned about the safety of that site – along Highway 9 and in an area many say is sometimes windblown so severely it blinds drivers – several people also said it’s the best site currently available to the school. Until earlier this year, the district had eyed the Smith Ranch as its preferred site, but plans to develop that area into the locals-oriented Silver Mountain Village fell through. That forced the district to look at its second-choice Cottonwnood Park site.

Six acres of Cottonwood Park are already dedicated for a school, but at what the school says is an undesirable location on the north side of the park. Instead, it asked the town to trade parcels, giving it a preferred piece of property north along Hamilton Creek Road. Along with those six acres, the district needs to buy another one acre-plus from adjoining landowner David Ray. That transaction hasn’t been completed, and that makes some council members nervous.



A new twist in the land issues emerged Wednesday when attorney John Wood said his client, Ray, wants access through the school parcel to another 11 acres he owns farther north. That potential monkey wrench was too much for some council members. They voted 5-1 to continue the issue, asking the school board to work out some of those unresolved problems.

Councilmember Peggy Long was the sole dissenter, but she has voted against the idea from day one, saying the site isn’t safe. Wednesday, she sent a stern message about her dissatisfaction to the school board. Long said a student at Kremmling’s elementary school, also located on a state highway, was killed in a traffic accident several years ago.

“That is one thing, by God, I don’t want to have happen in this town,” she said. “We’re responsible for taking care of our little people.”

Given some more time, Long still believes, the Smith Ranch could emerge as a potential site. A new developer has come to the town with plans to move forward on the Silver Mountain Village plans.

“If it takes another year to get this project off the ground, I think we need to take it,” she said. “C’mon, school board, get off your ass and do it right for the people.”

Dozens of people – most of them people who live in the subdivisions nearest the proposed school site – spoke out about safety concerns. When the school hold special events, such as a holiday concert, a lack of adequate parking will force those who attend to park along Hamilton Creek Road, and even fire officials say that isn’t safe.

But Mayor Lou DelPiccolo reminded them that the town can’t do much about most of their concerns. The majority of those decisions – on traffic, building design and parking – rest with the school district.

“Just because it’s called Silverthorne Elementary School doesn’t mean it belongs to Silverthorne,” he said. “It is assumed we have a lot more power (than we do).”

Indeed, the town has no say-so over design, but the school did allow a cursory review of the site plan Wednesday.

Summit School Superintendent Wes Smith promised, however, the district will look at the issues brought up Wednesday, including parking.

Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at jreuter@summitdaily.com


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