RE-1 residents blast school district’s plan to construct facility for buses
A drove of residents attacked the Roaring Fork School District RE-1’s plan to build a bus barn in a residential and agricultural area between Carbondale and Basalt on Wednesday night.They gathered primarily from the Lions Ridge neighborhood and properties adjacent to four acres the school district is under contract to buy near Highway 82 and County Road 100. A preliminary plan called for a 6,000-square-foot building, parking, 6,000-gallon above-ground fuel tank, and bus washing station on two of the acres. Property owners questioned almost every aspect of the plan, with concerns about light, air, noise and water pollution. They also voiced concerns about increased traffic on CR 100 and what they called an already dangerous intersection on Highway 82.Their arguments may have swayed some board members. “I think the board needs to go a different direction,” said board member Bruce Wampler, to cheers from the crowd. And the board promised to further evaluate its plans, but left open the possibility that it would buy and develop the site. One of several major points of contention was that a bus barn would be an industrial facility in an area zoned residential and agricultural by Garfield County. “[A bus barn] is not consistent with the underlying zoning and certainly not with [Garfield County’s] overall plan,” said Fred Jarman, senior planner for Garfield County. State law, however, states that school districts are immune to zoning requirements and not subject to approval from planning and zoning commissions.Commissions can only comment on school district plans and request a public hearing, said Mark Bean, director of planning and zoning for Garfield County.The idea that RE-1 would build an industrial facility on the site was especially touchy following the current landowner’s attempts to use his property for industrial purposes, which led to litigation in some cases. “I’ve been fighting this same little two acres since 1981,” said Doug White, who lives about 40 feet from the property. Beyond just the violation, residents were concerned an industry in the area would set a precedent for more industrial development. The school board also faced criticism for what many thought was an attempt to sneak the bus barn into the neighborhood. Jim Pitts, who owns the T.O. Ranch directly north of the proposed bus barn property, said he was one of only two people to receive a letter about the district’s plans. Additionally, the letter was postmarked Jan. 19, he said, which afforded almost no notice. “It’s total disrespect as far as I’m concerned,” he told the board. The district wasn’t trying to sneak in a new facility, board members assured the crowd.Wampler said the process the district follows worked as it should, with the district and residents coming together to discuss plans. “It comes out in public as if it’s a done deal,” board member Brad Zeigel said. “It’s not a done deal.”Your input as neighbors helps us evaluate this thing,” he said.
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