BY FREDA MIKLIN
Everyone on the Cherry Hills Village City Council agrees that Kent Denver School is a valuable community asset and a dedicated partner to the city. The view on what Kent should do about traffic congestion caused by its operation is murkier.
In September, 2017, Kent asked CHV to grant it an expanded use permit to construct a new school building. The city raised the question of traffic congestion nearby the school and how it might be mitigated. That led to traffic engineers recommending the installation of a roundabout at Quincy Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, which initially seemed to make practical sense to city council and staff. Then the idea was shared with the community, who made it abundantly clear that it absolutely did not want it built. City council immediately abandoned the idea, though the whole chain of events left the community bruised.
It also impacted Mayor Russell’s Stewart’s decision to get back into local politics (he was formerly on city council).
After the roundabout idea was dead and buried, there remained language in Kent’s development agreement which said that Kent agreed to convey to the city land needed to build the roundabout, should CHV decide to do so anytime through 2026.
CHV’s regular city council meeting agenda for Tuesday, May 7 included a proposal to simply remove that language. Mayor Stewart made it clear that he felt strongly that the proposal should be approved. He said that “this was a campaign issue for me.” He went on to state that in his legal opinion, the agreement was unconstitutional and should never have happened because it lacked the proportionality and nexus required under Colorado law. Asked to weigh in, CHV’s city attorney politely disagreed.
Jerry Walker testified at length on behalf of Kent Denver. He told city council that Kent planned to add a second late-start day next year and planned to offer preferred parking spots to students who carpooled to school. Both those actions were hoped to mitigate traffic congestion around the school.
Mayor Pro Tem Katy Brown asked Walker whether Kent would consider making its start time later every day to help with traffic congestion. Walker said that Kent could only do that if the city allowed the school to install lights on its athletic fields, since sports activities would likewise have to occur later in the day. Adding lights to Kent’s athletic fields is an idea that has been strongly opposed by CHV residents. Brown also asked Walker if Kent would consider capping its enrollment at a number lower than the 805 students it is presently permitted, since Walker said Kent’s intention is to maintain enrollment at around 700. Walker said he could not do so.
Other city council members asked Walker similar questions. Several community members, including Kent parents, recommended that city council approve the removal of the language as proposed. Former CHV Mayor Laura Christman and Earl Hoellen, former CHV city council member, recommended the city think hard before saying yes to the proposal. Christman said, “I don’t care now and I didn’t care then if there’s a roundabout. The issue is traffic and safety. The reason I’m here is that Kent Denver seems to use lights (on its sports fields) as a way to leverage this issue.” Hoellen said, “None of us have any idea what traffic conditions might be like 8 years from now (or) what the citizens of CHV might think about how to solve them. It was always intended that this provision of the Development Agreement was to give the City an option to deal with traffic problems at that location.”
Tension increased when Brown proposed an amendment that would lower Kent’s enrollment capacity from 805 to 720. It failed to garner a second and the mayor declared it dead. Council member Dan Sheldon proposed a two-week continuance to collaborate with Kent on the subject of traffic.
Council member Afshin Safavi expressed strong support for the original proposal and observed out loud that a tie vote would be broken by Mayor Stewart.
That proved true. The vote on the question of the two-week continuance failed on a three to three tie vote, after which the mayor voted no. Also voting no were Safavi, Randy Weil and Mike Gallagher. Voting yes were city council members Brown, Sheldon, and Al Blum.
The vote on the original proposal was the same, in reverse. Safavi, Gallagher, and Weil voted in favor of removing the language requiring Kent to be potentially obligated to convey a small amount of land to the city during the next eight years. Again, Mayor Stewart broke the tie, voting yes.
2018 All Rights Reserved. Villager Publishing |