The Rocky Mountain Deaf School received the Lakewood City Council’s go-ahead to build a new school at the council’s June 25 meeting, with an 8-3 vote to rezone the land.
Voting against the rezoning of the 10-acre plot at 2090 S. Wright St. were council members David Wiechman, Ramey Johnson and Pete Roybal.
Because a legal protest has been filed, the council had to pass the ordinance to rezone with a two-thirds majority.
After two and a half hours of public comment, dominated by neighbors and members of the 2090 Coalition, and nearly two hours of council discussion, it was determined that Jefferson County was in possession of the land, not Lakewood, which was a key issue for many of those opposed to the rezoning.
Ownership of the land has been the most disputed part of the process, with both parties claiming different owners. A reverter clause and unclear history of the land put have made it unclear who currently owns the property,
“Beyond shadow of a legal doubt, it’s not open space. This is privately owned land, owned by the Jefferson County School District,” said Mayor Bob Murphy. “That is the foundational question we’re dealing with. Once we establish that, it gives the owner of land the right to apply for rezoning.”
Those who opposed the rezoning cited mistakes that were made by the city, particularly the fact that signs were put up on the grounds saying it was Lakewood Open Space, which the planning commission found were put up in error. The overarching theme from the opponents was that they were not given enough time and information about the process, which has bubbled over into the tension that many neighbors are feeling.
“Some of the emotion you’ve picked up on tonight is pure frustration with the process,” said Heather Wenger, a member of the 2090 Coalition. “We felt like the process is closed due to quasi-judicial process. We felt like we haven’t been heard.”
Since the quasi-judicial process does not allow the council members to talk with each other or other parties about the issue, frustration at not being heard has been common not only for those on either side, but by the council members as well.
“This is the toughest thing we have to do,” said Councilman Adam Paul. “I guarantee you I read every bit of correspondence I received. There’s a lot of emotion here, but we have to separate the emotion and just look at the facts.”
Though the council passed the rezoning, the matter is not yet at an end.
The 2090 Coalition is already prepared to take the issue to court, and is raising money for a legal fund.
“The property does not belong to Jeffco Schools, plain and simple,” said Greg Kelly, a member of the coalition. “They know that and we know that. That fact is clear and can be honored now or in a court of law, but it will be honored.”