City passes proposed high school site

Vote poses no conflict of interest for Re-1 employees, bond supporters

Keywords: Poll question,

The Cortez City Council Tuesday night approved a conditional use permit application from Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 to allow for the establishment of a new high school campus near the intersection of Sligo and Seventh streets.

City Planning Director Kirsten Sackett said part of the requirement for Re-1 to receive the $22.7 million Building Excellent Schools Today grant is for the land to receive zoning approval from the city.

She also said the new site for the proposed high school is 35 acres and is owned by the Schwartz Family Trust. The school itself would be 162,500 square feet, able to accommodate 700 students, LEED gold certified and designed to accommodate up-to-date and future technology.

The state will be responsible for on-site inspections of the proposed school once built, though Sackett said city building inspectors would be able to perform the assessment if all sides agree to this.

She said Tuesday’s vote was simply to determine if the proposed site was suitable for a school.

“It would be a nice way to boost the economy,” she said, and added the staff and planning and zoning commission had recommended approval.

According to the city’s land use code, an educational facility in the residential multi-family zoning district must go through the conditional use permit and public hearing process in order to obtain approval from the city.

The council also discussed whether some council members had a conflict of interest that would prohibit them from voting on the matter because of their ties to the bond and employment with the Re-1 school district. Three council members are currently employed by the school district, two are former employees of Re-1 and others are involved in promoting the passage of the more—than—$20 million matching bond needed to build the new high school.

City Attorney Michael Green said he saw no conflict of interest since no one was receiving any money.

City Manager Shane Hale agreed that a conflict of interest would only exist if one of the council members were making extra money or planning to bid on a construction project for the new school.

Council also discussed the likelihood that Sligo Street would be widened, though a turn lane might not be added. Hale said a 20 percent increase or more in traffic on this street would be the “trigger” to install a turn lane. He also added that the good news is the school traffic in the morning would not conflict with Walmart’s busy times.

Seventh Street would be extended an additional 1,600 feet to the east to link the high school to County Road 27 next to the bus barn.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com