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Polston group amends school lawsuit

Posted: Wednesday, Jul 24th, 2013

Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA — Keep Polston Public (KPP) plaintiffs continue to maintain the Alamosa Board of Education (ABOE) and Dan Russell entered into an illegal land sale agreement, and believe to have strengthened the case on Monday after amending their lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which challenges the ABOE’s May 9 decision to sell the Polston property to Russell for a below market price after signing a letter of intent with the Trust for Public Land (TPL), KPP’s partner and fiscal representative, to purchase the property for its appraised value of $750,000, now recognizes the deed signing. When KPP filed the lawsuit earlier this month, the group was unaware Russell and the ABOE notarized the deeds on July 1 and legally filed the documents on July 2, an action that was anticipated to take place in August after Russell met with the Alamosa City Council to discuss his development plans and options.

The amended lawsuit also asks the court to prevent Russell from reselling the property.

Neither the ABOE nor Russell have filed an answer to the lawsuit or otherwise responded to the complaint to date, according to the motion. They have less than three weeks to respond, which will then allow the matter to go before an Alamosa County District Court judge.

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 declaratory judgment and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, according to the lawsuit.

In particular, KPP alleges the Alamosa School District (ASD) found the property would not be needed in the foreseeable future only after agreeing to enter in a contract with Russell, according to the lawsuit. According to the ASD’s School Properties Disposition Policy, “The Board has the authority to sell or lease any district property which may not be needed in the foreseeable future upon such terms and conditions as it may approve.”

The policy also states, “Land and buildings shall be sold upon approval of the Board of Education under such terms and conditions as the Board may direct.”

KPP has also called into question the time the deeds were signed on July 1, whether it was before or after the ABOE signed the resolution to sell during that evening’s public meeting.

TLP 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.

TPL would have made the proposed healthy living park a reality with grant dollars from the Colorado Health Foundation and Great Outdoors Colorado in addition to securing some private funding from both inside and outside the Valley.

Russell intends to improve 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. Such a development, located on the corner of Highway 17 and Highway 160, could 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 300 RV lots. They also include a 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.

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 earlier this month he no longer had an appointment because he closed the sale.

KPP also filed a Lis Pendens notice with the Alamosa County Clerk and Recorder. The notice indicates a lawsuit has been filed concerning a particular piece of real estate.


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