The fight over a parcel in a Lakewood neighborhood continued Saturday as members of the Rocky Mountain Deaf School rallied to be allowed to build its new school at the location.
Families, school officials, and nearby residents rallied at the vacant, 10-acre plot, located adjacent to Hutchinson Park. In June, Lakewood City Council voted to re-zone the land, which would allow RMDS to build a K-12 school.
However homeowners opposed that and now are hoping a petition will force issue to go to a special election. Opponents known as the 2090 Coalition said the land cannot be used for any school building.
Kevin Dale, one of 60 students are RMDS, said he hoped the school would be built on the land. Dale's mother Myra Martinez told 7NEWS the current location in a strip mall is inappropriate. She said she was devastated when she heard homeowners were against the school.
"We understand why they're [homeowners] having these concerns but once they know the facts, there's really no reason to argue this," Martinez said. "What I have said is that I really feel for them. They expected this would be open space and its inappropriate they were deceived or felt deceived at that time, but this is a great purpose."
Homeowner Michael Davenport said the city must be held accountable.
"This land is zoned for municipal use and for many years the City of Lakewood posted signs on the property showing it marked as city of Lakewood open space," said Davenport. "Now the Mayor says this has never been open space."
Davenport's home is located 200 feet from the property. He said him and many other homeowners have used this space for years and that they were under the impression this land was open space.
However, the city has taken those signs down within the last year and Davenport said officials with the city said the land is owned by Jeffco Public Schools.
Davenport cited a 1973 development plan that stated, "If the site is not utilized by the School District for such purposes within eight years of the date of approval of this plan, all rights of the School District in the land shall be null and void and said land shall revert to the City of Lakewood for municipal purposes."
7NEWS asked Lakewood city officials about that clause. The development plan was an idea by the developer; however, it did not establish ownership a city spokesperson said. The only document that established the owner of the property was the deed, and the deed named Jefferson County School District the owner.
"Id like Mayor and city council to stand up and actually be truthful about this," Davenport said. "This was marked as open space which makes it so."
Residents opposed circulated a petition, which must have 3,000 signatures by Aug. 10th. If the group collects the needed signatures, the city council would be required to either vote on the matter or put it up for special election, which could cost taxpayers up to $230,000.
RMDS said it is concerned because any significant delays could cost them state grants that would make building the new school possible.
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