Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — Before Keep Polston Public (KPP) could file their lawsuit last week, the Alamosa Board of Education (ABOE) sealed the Polston property sale with Dan Russell, a month earlier than scheduled.
ABOE officials signed the property’s Warranty Deed and Quit Claims Deed in front of a public notary on Monday, July 1, according to Alamosa County documents. The property sale to Russell’s Alamosa RV Resort on the Rio Grande LLC was legally recognized on Tuesday, July 2 around 8:30 a.m.
An inquiry into the time the public notary witnessed ABOE President Bill Van Gieson and ABOE Secretary Christine Haslett sign the deeds on July 1 was made on Wednesday, but the call was not returned before press time.
Aside from the ABOE resolution to sell approved in a 6-1 vote on the same day the deed’s were notarized, it was assumed the sale would not take place until August, based on statements made in ABOE public meetings. Russell had previously intended to hold discussions with the Alamosa City Council prior to committing to the sale.
The ABOE agreed to sell the 38-acre tract with Independent Ditch, unincorporated ditch and well water rights for $500,000, which is $255,000 less than the appraised value.
Russell was scheduled to appear before the Alamosa city council on July 17 to discuss annexation requirements and a potential land exchange, but Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks said on Tuesday he no longer had an appointment because he closed the sale.
He also has not submitted any official documents to the city, she said. The city’s staff, however, will still meet with Russell to discuss land use matters if he is still interested in pursuing those avenues. Those matters would come before the city council in the future if the developer moves forward with city-related issues. The city would handle this development through the normal processes and as objectively and consistently as possible, according to Brooks.
KPP attempted to stop the sale with a lawsuit on July 2. The plaintiffs, Renee Mackey, Patrick O’Neill, Trudi Krestsinger, Danny LeDonne, Julie Mordecai, Terry McClaughry, Jan Oen, Karen Lemke, Mandy Pittman and William Brinton, filed a complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief in Alamosa District Court against the ABOE, the Alamosa School District, the Alamosa School District Capital Finance Corporation and Russell, according to a court document.
The lawsuit challenged the ABOE May 9 decision to sell the property to Russell for a “below market $500,000 offer from Mr. Russell despite the fact that the Trust for Public Land (TLP), working with the Plaintiffs and others in the community, had presented an Option Agreement to purchase the Polston property for its appraised value of $750,000 in order to construct a Healthy Living Park for the community.”
The plaintiffs allege the ABOE is in violation of Colorado Open Meeting Laws, Colorado Constitution Article XI, Section 2, and the school board act; in breach of fiduciary duty; and the group seeks judgment and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, according to the document.
KPP has not announced its next step but is meeting with its legal council later this week.
Russell’s property interest is founded in improving Alamosa’s economic state through providing a “destination” and access to the preexisting Alamosa Ranch/Cole Park area through an expanded parking area and RV resort. He said such a development, located on the corner of Highway 17 and Highway 160, would allow people immediate opportunities to explore the city and its natural settings while raising the tax base.
His preliminary plans include creating 300 parking spaces near Cole Park’s Rio Grande footbridge and roughly 200 RV lots. They also include a potential land exchange with the City of Alamosa, a private fishing pond, the ability for golfers to drive their carts to Cattails and solutions to impending challenges from the East Alamosa Water and Sanitation District that include tap fees.
KPP, in conjunction with the non-profit group Trust for Public Lands (TPL), wanted to acquire the property to develop the healthy living park based on similar projects across the state and nationwide. The park would have provided access to the Alamosa Ranch via bike and walking trails. It would have also potentially included quarter acre farm plots to encourage new farmer development; community gardens and greenhouses; a multi-purpose building with possible kitchen space, classrooms and a food distribution warehouse; outdoor events space; amphitheater; theme gardens; outdoor classroom space; picnic tables; a wetlands preservation site; a traditional water uses education site; a Sites of the San Luis Valley playground; and exercise stations.