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School district abandons legal battle over Lakewood parcel

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Board majority votes to withdraw appeal

By Ramsey Scott

The Jeffco school board voted 3-2 on March 20 to end the district’s legal battle over a piece of property in Lakewood.

Jeffco Public Schools filed an appeal after a county judge ruled that a 10-acre parcel at 2090 S. Wright St. belonged to Lakewood and not the school district.

The district has been involved in a legal battle over the property since 2012 after trying to sell the property to the Rocky Mountain Deaf School. A citizen-formed group, 2090 Wright Coalition, filed a complaint, saying records showed the land belonged to Lakewood and should be used for a park and open space.

“We heard from our capital advisory committee, and they support this appeal,” said board member Lesley Dahlkemper. “It would be unconscionable for this school board to walk away from a $1 million piece of property.”

 The board’s Capital Asset Advisory Committee wrote a letter to the board advising it not to withdraw the appeal.

“We have reviewed the court’s decisions and believe the implications to the district are significant. (To withdraw the appeal would have) far-reaching implications as it relates to Jeffco Schools’ ability to conduct long-range planning, manage school district properties and construct future schools. These potential implications could be harmful and expensive to the district if this order is allowed to stand, leading us to recommend the appeal as a prudent business decision to protect and restore our property interests,” the letter stated. 

“We’ve come up to $250,000 in expenditures on this lawsuit without any board member taking a position on it,” said Ken Witt, board president. “It’s time to put this to rest. Money needs to spent on education and not land management.”

The district’s law firm, Caplan and Earnest, recommended challenging the judge’s ruling. Attorney Stuart Stuller would not comment on the advice given to the board because it came during last week’s executive session.

“It was not appropriate to wait until after spring break and let two more weeks pass. It was time to give specific direction,” Witt said after the meeting.

Board members Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams voted to withdraw the appeal. Members Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman voted against withdrawing it.

“We knew from our research into city documents that this land belongs to the people of Lakewood and was intended to be used as a park or open space,” said Heather Wenger, chair of the 2090 Wright Coalition.

 

Contact Daniel Laverty at 303-350-1042 or Daniel@evergreen
co.com. Follow Daniel on Twitter @LavertyReports.