Want to be great neighbors but…
By Mark Reaman
Gunnison School District superintendent Leslie Nichols told the Crested Butte Town Council that if the school district decides to expand the school facility on the current site as the school board is contemplating, it doesn’t plan to go through the formal Board of Zoning and Architectural Review (BOZAR) process.
While Nichols said the district wants feedback from BOZAR and “appreciates being a good neighbor” with the town, state law indicates the district is not obligated to conform to town zoning regulations. The town feels the district is obligated to go through BOZAR under an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) in place between the two government entities.
While the council did not immediately reply to Nichols’ position, it did hold an executive session with town attorney John Sullivan to discuss their legal options.
The IGA signed between the town and school district in 2009 when the school was expanded on the Town Ranch required that the school go through BOZAR review for that project. The town contends the IGA makes it clear that BOZAR review is required for any new school expansion or improvement. The town and school district are currently working on renegotiating that agreement in its entirety.
Nichols said the process of going through BOZAR 10 years ago was “positive” but not without issues and the added cost of the requirements that came from the review “left a bad taste in the District’s mouth.” She indicated that taste still lingers and said there was significant cost to make the buildings look good instead of using the money for things like classrooms. “It still comes up,” she told the council but she did not provide the details of what those costs were.
“We would like to see the district collaborate with BOZAR if an expansion happens there,” Nichols said. “That said, because the school district is not bound by local zoning authorities I see a slightly different process on a new expansion.”
Nichols also told the council a concern was that some funding sources in a school expansion project could see requirements mandated by local regulations “in a negative light” that added unnecessary cost to the project and those funding sources could then refuse to participate.
“The bottom line is that I see my job is to protect the District’s interest and that includes educating the kids and being responsible for taxpayer money,” Nichols told the council. “Dollars spent on exterior finishes and roof lines are dollars that cannot be spent on innovative classroom spaces and essential safety features. We will continue to be good and collaborative neighbors, but we cannot be bound by unnecessary regulation that is not required for school districts by law. I wanted to come here tonight so you know where we are coming from.”
The Crested Butte council plans to bring up the issue for public discussion at the June 3 Town Council meeting.