Shooks Run Neighbors Charge D-11 with Breach of Faith 

Neighborhood fears vs. district needs for space

The Upper Shooks Run Neighborhood Association is accusing District 11 of breaking their promises and allowing their neighborhood to deteriorate by a proposed change in the layout of its administrative campus at East Uintah and North El Paso Street.

The flap -- yet another of the growing number of disputes in the greater downtown area between residential neighborhoods and encroaching development -- centers around three modular units located in a storage yard directly south of the main administration building.

D-11 wants to use the modulars for administrative offices as part of plans to convert the storage yard to administrative uses.

Shooks Run neighbors, however, say the units are an eyesore and reflect a growing trend by District 11 to "gobble up" the neighborhood adjoining the administrative campus. They want the administrators to abide by a commitment made in a 1998 development plan to remove the modulars by the end of the current bond cycle this December.

"This repudiates a year and a half of negotiations that resulted in an agreement between the neighborhood, the city and D-11 about what kind of usages are appropriate for this neighborhood," said neighbor Becky Cramer.

"We're not just a bunch of cranks," she said. "We're being loaded with office buildings and facilities that take up more and more space, tie up the neighborhood with traffic and create an aesthetic blight. This is wiping us out."

The district claims, however, that it is up against unforeseen space limitations and that it needs to use the modulars for another 18 months. D-11 Chief Financial Officer Glenn Gustafson insists the protest is much ado over very little.

"I'm amazed at the fuss some of the neighbors are making over this," Gustafson said.

"We're working aggressively to be good neighbors and keep the neighborhood appealing, but our obligation to make as efficient and appropriate use of our facilities as we can requires us to make use of the portables for a little longer," he said.

"You can barely see these units from the street. I suspect the neighbors making the fuss are worried more about what they fear will happen than about what's actually happening."

Escalating tensions

Tensions between the neighborhood and District 11 go back to 1996 when area residents formed the Upper Shooks Run Neighborhood Association to "stem the tide" of neighborhood encroachment after D-11 destroyed 11 homes to install a parking lot at their administrative campus.

Neighborhood disaffection upped another notch when, following voter approval of a bond request in 1998, the district extended the administrative campus a block farther south, creating a maintenance yard and storage facility for construction equipment.

The escalating tensions prompted the district to undergo negotiations with the neighbors. D-11 agreed to transfer its equipment and storage facility to an area adjoining its bus storage facility on the city's east side, and to remove the disputed modulars -- which house the construction-project management team -- when the voter-approved bond cycle expires next month.

Since 1998, former superintendent Kenneth Burnley and former chief financial officer Bob Moore, both of whom were key to that agreement, have taken jobs in Detroit, and their replacements have new plans for the modulars.

Facilities director Frank Bernhard reports that the modulars will house the D-11 Office of Community and School Relations, the office for the district's CSAP (state standardized testing) program and the office of an intergovernmental program that will provide early interventions for chronically truant and disruptive students.

Those uses were made necessary, Bernhard says, when the D-11 school board, faced with a $5 million budget shortfall, voted earlier this year not to fund an addition to the current administrative building.

Shades of Florida

Describing the D-11 plan as "an apparent breach of faith" Colorado Springs Councilman Jim Null has asked the city planning department to investigate. "It could be," he said, "that this is just a case where the new leadership is unaware of previous agreements."

City planner Paul Tice, however, downplayed the dispute.

District personnel contacted him earlier this year to discuss district plans to change the site from a maintenance to an administrative facility, he said, and several weeks ago Tice called a meeting between the neighbors and D-11 to walk through the site and discuss the issue.

"District 11 told me they're going to submit a development plan for the site within the next few weeks," he said, "and I've promised to get the neighbors a copy, at which time we'll have another three-way meeting to look for a resolution acceptable to everyone.

"Until then, there's no impasse."

Resolution, however, could be as complicated as the recent Florida vote count.

Tice says that if city planning rules that the modulars have to go, D-11 can appeal the decision to the city Planning Commission and then to City Council -- and ultimately to the school board.

"If I rule the modulars can stay," Tice added, "the neighbors can appeal to Planning Commission and to City Council, either one which can overturn my decision.

"I suspect," he added, "that, more than anything else, this is a matter of principle with the neighbors. As I see it, the only issue is whether the modulars should be allowed to remain on the site past the end of this year."


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