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Landowner contests city’s Clark Street decision

A landowner wanting to sell property north of Clark Street for a new Parkside Elementary School is appealing a decision by the Powell City Council, calling it arbitrary and contending it interfered with property rights and reduced the land’s market value.

At issue is the council’s decision last month to vacate a curved Clark Street extension on the city’s master street plan and replace it with a new extension of Clark leading north in a straight route to Lane 8.

The street extension would run through the 30 acres of agricultural land that Park County School District No. 1 plans to purchase for a future Parkside Elementary — but the district will not purchase the land if a road runs through it, Superintendent Kevin Mitchell has said.

In a petition for review filed in District Court on April 6, the landowner, Johnson Sibling Trust, asks the court to declare the city council’s action illegal and void.

“Clearly, the City Council’s arbitrary action/decision to amend the Master Street Plan without any objective support or basis substantially damages Johnson’s property rights and reduces the market value of its property, and amounts to a taking without just compensation,” the petition reads.

At the council’s meeting last month, Attorney Michael LaBazzo, who represents Johnson Sibling Trust, asked the council to wait to propose a new road until the city updates its master street plan — something that hasn’t been done since the 1980s.

During the March discussion, 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.

While Mayor Scott Mangold, city councilmen and city planning and zoning commissioners all agreed that the city’s master street plan needs updated, most were hesitant to abandon a Clark extension.

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

The petition argues that the council’s decision to extend Clark was made without any objective basis, “without any traffic or engineering study or city engineer recommendation.”

The city staff has talked about hiring an outside professional to do a traffic study and revisit the master street plan as a whole. Funding for an updated plan is not in this year’s budget, but it could be proposed for the next fiscal year, which begins in July.

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 nine 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 said during the discussion.

While the district has the money available for the land purchase, it doesn’t have a specific timeline for purchasing and developing the property, Mitchell said. It’s likely a new Parkside Elementary still is around 15 years down the road, he told the city last fall.

Assistant City Attorney Scott Kath, who is representing the city of Powell and City Council, declined to comment Wednesday, saying the council hasn’t discussed the petition yet. The Powell City Council meets on Monday, and Mayor Mangold said he expects the council will discuss the issue during an executive session.

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