The county’s efforts to buy Toepfer and Sweetwater parks from the Douglas County School District took a step forward Nov. 9 when the school board officially approved a resolution to continue negotiations.

After a year of discussions, the school district appears to be ready to sale the two properties at what is referred to in the resolution as a “discounted” price. The school board approved two letters of intent, giving school administrators permission to complete negotiations.

While not a done deal, the board’s approval will move the process forward in allowing Douglas County to purchase Toepfer Park, located in Highlands Ranch, and Sweetwater Park, adjacent to Lone Tree, for just over $1.2 million.

With no set timeline to negotiate a final deal, the process is now in the hands of Douglas County commissioners. County spokesperson Wendy Holmes said commissioners will discuss the details at a future work session that has not yet been scheduled.

The school district gained ownership of the properties in question when past housing developers donated the parks to be used as future school sites. Last year, the school district announced that neither park would be needed for schools, opting to sell the land.

Citizens became alarmed at the prospect that the school district could potentially sell the two parks to housing developers. Citizens spoke out at school board meetings and to the Douglas County commissioners.

Agreeing the land is better suited to remain open space, the commissioners gave county staff permission to negotiate an agreement with the school district to allow the county to purchase the properties.

In moving the process forward, the school board approved selling the 10-acre Toepfer Park for $675,000. The board approved selling the 31-acre Sweetwater Park for just over $555,000.

The main point of contention as negotiations have continued has been what the land is worth. The county had appraisals done based on the current zoning of both properties. The school district’s appraisals were based on what the land could be developed into.

Since the sites are currently zoned open space, prospective developers would have to go through Douglas County to get he land rezoned.

Douglas County commissioners have said they agree with citizen concerns and would rather the land remain open space instead of being developed commercially or residentially.