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March 17, 2011 7:30 am

City vacates original Clark Street extension

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Looks to expand road north

A dotted line under scrutiny no longer exists on the city’s master street plan.

Under a plan adopted in the 1980s, a dotted line showed a proposed Clark Street extending northwest in a curve toward the Elk Basin Highway.

Last fall, Park County School District No. 1 showed interest in purchasing 30 acres of agricultural land north of Clark Street from a private landowner for a proposed Parkside Elementary School. But the school district does not want to buy the land if it must fund a city street that would weave through the middle of the property.

Last week, the Powell City Council voted 5-1 to vacate the plan’s proposed curved roadway leading to Elk Basin, but replaced it with a road leading north in a straight route to Lane 8, as the city’s planning and zoning commission had recommended.

City Councilman John Wetzel was absent from the meeting and vote last week. Councilman Myron Heny voted against the motion, saying that he favored vacating the curved extension of Clark Street, but didn’t think the city should replace it with a new proposed extension until more data is available.

“We don’t have any justification yet (for the extension). We don’t have an updated master street plan or a traffic study,” Heny said in a later interview. “It’s still county land ... let’s get the study so we can justify the vote, rather than going on our own personal opinions.”

Though the district doesn’t plan to build a new Parkside school for another 15 years, Superintendent Kevin Mitchell said Friday the school district made an offer on the land contingent on getting the road vacated.

“We will not purchase the land from the property owner as long as there’s a road leading through the property,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said that involves any road — whether it’s the curved road the city did vacate last week or the newly-proposed north extension to Lane 8.

It is the landowner’s responsibility to get the roads vacated, not the district’s, Mitchell said.

Attorney Michael LaBazzo, who represents the landowner, Johnson Sibling Trust, asked the council to vacate the road and wait to propose a new road until the city completes an updated master street plan.

“Why draw another dotted line when it may be revisited in the master street plan?” LaBazzo asked planning and zoning commissioners. “It is not like you’re giving anything up.”

LaBazzo pointed out that the land isn’t annexed into the city of Powell. He said the city would have more opportunities to revisit the proposed Clark Street extension — when its street plan is updated, when the land becomes annexed into the city and when the school district or other entity proposes to build on the property.

“They have to come before you first,” LaBazzo said. “And at that point, you have something concrete to look at — no one can do anything with that land until they come before you.”

However, both planning and zoning and city council leaders were hesitant to vacate the proposed street without replacing it with another Clark Street extension.

“To me, it doesn’t make a difference who looks at the property,” said Councilman Don Hillman. “They’ve got to consider they’ll have a street going north. By erasing everything, you could lead to some false assumptions there.”

Since the discussion with the school district and land began last fall, city officials have maintained they would like to make Clark Street an extended north-south access road through town.

“We’re looking at the city as a whole,” said Tim Sapp, planning and zoning commissioner. He said the city needs a north/south route to help move traffic through town.

“Clark Street is the best way to do it, and always has been,” Sapp said.

LaBazzo said the city should wait to draw the extended Clark Street until a master street plan shows the traffic flow, demographics and other pertinent information.

“There’s no data, no information available to the city that would warrant drawing that (extension),” LaBazzo told the city council.

He added that a new school is at least 10 to 15 years down the road, and “the district’s not even willing to commit to where they’re going to put the school.”

Considering the unknown variables, LaBazzo encouraged the city to wait until the new master plan is drafted before drawing a new dotted line to extend Clark.

City officials also agreed it’s time to revisit the master street plan, but said there isn’t money available in the current budget.

“It’s long past due for updating,” said Sapp.

“We’ve got to get that master street plan addressed as quickly as possible,” Mayor Scott Mangold said, adding that state grant funds may be available to help fund the plan.

During discussion last fall, councilmen asked Mitchell if the school district could purchase and develop just a portion of the land, thereby allowing the rest of the 30-acre property to be developed and include an extended Clark Street. The district needs about 9 acres for a new elementary school, but has been looking at purchasing the entire 30-acre parcel.

“I’ve been told that if someone buys that property and divides it, you’re going to make them put that road in — and we’re not interested in that,” Mitchell responded.

In an interview on Friday, Mitchell said the school district doesn’t have a specific timeline for purchasing the land, saying the district may not build for another 15 years, so it’s not a top priority right now.

Rather, the school district was trying to do long-term planning and a study identified the parcel as an ideal location for a new elementary school.

“We’ve got an an interested property owner and an interested buyer,” LaBazzo said.

“It really is a prime spot for us, but if it doesn’t work, we will look somewhere else,” Mitchell said.

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