Large yellow front loader moves dirt
Site of Bus Barn on Hwy 103 in Idaho Springs. File Credit: Chris Koeberl

Months of friction between Idaho Springs and Clear Creek School District officials concerning the school district’s proposed bus barn ended when the Planning Commission approved the site’s Final Development Plan.

On Nov. 1 after 20 minutes of discussion, the Idaho Springs Planning Commission unanimously approved the plan to put the bus barn, known as the Transportation and Maintenance Facility or TMF, on the track site just south of the former middle school on Highway 103. 

The decision ends a lawsuit that Idaho Springs filed against the school district in August because the city contended the school district hadn’t gotten the proper zoning approvals and permits before site work began. The city said its regulations concerning traffic control, lighting, landscaping, parking, noise, drainage, stormwater and erosion control apply to the project because they impact surrounding neighborhoods.

The school district believes that because it’s a public entity, it falls under the jurisdiction of the state rather than the City of Idaho Springs. The Colorado Department of Public Safety’s Division of Fire Prevention and Control issues building permits for school districts, it says.

At a court hearing on Sept. 22, Idaho Springs Municipal Court Judge Michael Goodbee postponed a trial, noting that if school district and city officials could come to an agreement, they could avoid six months to a year of litigation.

city hall brick building with tree and flowers outside
Idaho Springs Planning Commission met at city hall Nov. 1. Credit: Chris Koeberl

“There was a disagreement about what Colorado statutes allow,” Assistant City Administrator Jon Cain said. “Impacts to the surrounding area and the community — the city maintains that land-use control, so our Final Development Plan process, which we did tonight, is a process to measure those impacts.”

“This (Planning Commission) hearing is part of a settlement to dismiss the lawsuit,” Idaho Springs City Attorney Nicholas Klein said. “As part of a bargaining settlement, this is the lone hearing on the subject, the final decision.”

Interim Superintendent Mike Gass said after the hearing: “What we needed for (city officials) to do is kind of put a bow on it, and I think we got there.”

School board member Kelly Flenniken added: “The city recognized the authority school districts have as an independent government … so I think this shows the quality of partnership between the city and the school district. … We have kids that need to be transported next school year, so I’m very, very thrilled.”

City staff recommended approval of the plan because the request adhered to the Idaho Springs Land Development Regulations, which mandated the FDP process, according to documents provided to the Planning Commission. Concerns about the building and the site, which the city provided to the school district more than a year ago, have been met, the documents said.

In 2022, the school district applied for a Final Development Plan approval with Idaho Springs, and city staff had six conditions of approval. The school district didn’t follow up, believing it fell under state requirements. Now those six concerns have been met, the Planning Commission documents said.

They included that the school district had the proper setbacks from Highway 103, that it provided a landscaping plan using drought-tolerant plants, that the TMF won’t be intrusive to neighbors, parking stalls are the appropriate size, fuel tanks meet city requirements and the building complies with architectural requirements.

The school district and Idaho Springs also had resolved issues related to a September cease-and-desist order that demanded the school district stop installing a main water pipe at the site. However, the school district said it was a misunderstanding, its crews were not working on a water line and the school district was waiting for city approval to install the pipe. 

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