"So, now, we're feeling that is urgent that we move to a new space," Bridenbaugh, director of the Rocky Mountain Deaf School, said.
The school has been a successful alternative for deaf students learning American Sign Language along with academics. But the school is currently in a strip mall in Golden tucked between a video game store and a dry cleaning business.
"We've been looking for a place to call home," Bridenbaugh said.
Last year, the Rocky Mountain Deaf School won a $13 million grant from the State of Colorado called B.E.S.T., which stands for Building Excellent Schools Today. The school then purchased a parcel of land put up for sale at 2090 Wright Street in Lakewood by the Jefferson County School District.
That's when things got complicated.
"The ownership of the property has to be absolute," Michael Davenport, a neighbor, said.
Davenport is with a group of residents calling themselves the "2090 Coalition," named after the address of the site in question. The group has launched a campaign called "Save Our Park."
Davenport says the land purchased by the Rocky Mountain Deaf School has been used for decades as an open space and a wildlife corridor.
"It certainly has great value to the wildlife, but also, of course, to the residents and to the value of our property," Davenport said.
Davenport says when Hutchinson Homes developed the neighborhood in the early 1970s, the developer donated the land in question to Jeffco Schools with the specific condition that if they don't build a school within eight years, the land will revert to the City of Lakewood to be used as a park.
"This has nothing to do with the deaf school," Davenport said. "The deaf school is merely being used by the school district as a way to get the property re-zoned."
Wednesday night, the Lakewood Planning Commission will address the proposal to change the zoning of the property to allow the Rocky Mountain Deaf School to build a 46,000 square-foot campus with some space for a student dormitory. Currently, the site is only zoned for an elementary school.
Tim Reed is the director of Capital Programs Facility Planning for Jeffco Schools. Reed says there was an initial agreement by the developer in 1973 to have the land go to Lakewood if a school is not built. But Reed says in 1977, the developer bypassed the agreement and turned the land over to Jeffco Schools.
"This voided the reverter condition because Lakewood never owned the land, therefore it could not revert back to them," Reed said in a statement. "We have held the deed since 1977. We have executed easements and acted in a manner consistent with ownership."
Bridenbaugh says the school is relying on approval from the City of Lakewood for the zoning change.
"If we're not able to do that, then we could lose the money from the B.E.S.T. grant and then we have no way to build a new school," Bridenbaugh said. "We are stuck here."
Wednesday night, the Planning Commission voted 7-0 in favor of re-zoning the property. But, the Lakewood City Council will have the final say. It is scheduled to vote on the matter on June 25.
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