Garfield County commissioners on Monday denied a request from a private school outside Carbondale to vacate a historic county road easement that runs through the main school campus.
“I would like to see the school and the community come together to find a better solution,” Commission Chairman John Martin said of the proposal by Colorado Rocky Mountain School to vacate the roadway due to concerns about student safety and campus security.
“But vacation [of the road] is the most extreme solution,” said Martin, who has also expressed concerns in the past about setting a precedent for giving up a county right of way.
Commissioner Mike Samson joined Martin in the 2-1 vote denying the school’s request to vacate the road, and siding with a room full of neighboring residents who lobbied the commissioners to maintain the public easement.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky sided with the school, saying he was willing to give up the roadway in favor of an improved path around the north and east ends of the campus and connecting to a new path along the west side of Highway 133 that is under construction.
“There is a safety issue here, and there is an alternative that works,” Jankovsky said. “We also need to support this school for economic reasons.”
The 1,223-foot section of road in question was closed by the county to vehicle traffic in 1979 when CRMS dedicated land for Dolores Way to serve as a replacement route from the unincorporated community of Satank to get to Highway 133.
The road easement was maintained at the time for the purpose of allowing cattle drives through the campus and to maintain access to utility lines.
In the years since, it has been used as a public foot and bike access, primarily for the benefit of Satank residents and students at the nearby Carbondale Community School, who often pass through the CRMS campus on their way to and from school.
At a continued public hearing Monday, CRMS officials offered to accommodate property owners in Satank and their immediate family members with a process to obtain a permit to pass through the campus should their request to vacate the road be granted.
A similar accommodation would be made for Community School students wishing to pass through the campus, said CRMS head of school Jeff Leahy.
Last month, county commissioners approved a preliminary finding that the alternative path proposed by CRMS met the objectives of the county’s comprehensive plan. However, the commissioners postponed a decision on the road vacation itself.
Several longtime Satank residents said CRMS has always been a good neighbor, and one that has been willing over the years to work with the larger community on issues. The alternative pathway into Carbondale offered by the school is not acceptable, they said.
However, teachers, staff and one CRMS parent and board member said the request to vacate the road is about protecting the interests of students at the school, which includes providing a safe learning environment without the inherent risks of having public access through the campus.
School representatives did not commit to a specific meeting date, which the county commissioners agreed to help facilitate, but said they were open to the idea of continuing the talks.