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Durango City Council postpones decision on subdividing school district land

Staff asked to renegotiate property lines to include more trees, sledding hill
About 200 people gather June 22, 2020, in Buckley Park during a celebration of Juneteenth. Durango City Council decided Tuesday night to postpone the Buckley Park and Durango School District 9-R Administration Building subdivision to consider best use of space for the park. (Shane Benjamin/Durango Herald file)

Durango City Council postponed a decision Tuesday about whether it should split Buckley Park and the Durango School District 9-R Administration Building into two properties.

A unanimous decision was made by councilors to send the plan back to city staff members in an effort to maximize the amount of space that can be used as a park.

“I really like the Idea that we want to preserve as much of vegetation and green as possible with Buckley Park,” said Mayor Kim Baxter. “I think that if we continue this conversation, we can have that discussion with 9-R about changing this property line.”

Members of the public who spoke at the hearing asked council to postpone any decision about a subdivision until all involved in the upcoming sales of Buckley Park and the Administration Building meet with the public to address concerns about the preservation of trees on the lot.

“If this is the moment where we have a chance to save a forest of 14 old, large canopy trees or allow this forest to become a parking lot, I think it’s time to take a serious pause,” said Durango resident Jules Harris.

Carol Johnson of Durango enjoys a sledding run at Buckley Park with her granddaughter, Eden Sanchez, in December 2019. (Durango Herald file)

Another point made by the public was that a popular spot where children sled in the winter was not given enough clearance for children to take part in those winter activities. Members of the council agreed and asked city staff members to consider widening property lines on the popular sledding spot.

“My kids have sledded that hill all through their youth,” said City Councilor Jessika Buell. “If we could include that, I think that would be phenomenal.”

Currently, the school district owns the 4.73-acre plot of land that includes both Buckley Park and the 9-R Administration Building.

The proposed split would include 1.44 acres for Buckley Park and 3.298 acres for the Administration Building.

A subdivision is required to separate the Administration Building property into two pieces of property.

Durango School District 9-R is looking to make two separate sales – one being the sale of the Administration Building to the Durango Fire Protection District, and the other being Buckley Park to the city of Durango.

Council asked if the straight line dividing the park and the 9-R building in the initial proposal could be realigned to account for more space on the hillside where children enjoy sledding during winter, and to keep more trees in the park.

“Could I also suggest coming back with a plan to preserve the trees and the sledding capacity,” said Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Noseworthy.

Members of the council were split on conceptual uses for the space. Some councilors said it is common to see concepts for future use before parcels are split, while others understand that concepts from the school district would be difficult to share given the district’s plan to sell the property.

“We usually see some back-of-the-envelope, conceptual ideas about what the future plan is when that property is subdivided, and we don’t have any of that here,” Baxter said.

City staff members will now evaluate the lines of the subdivision, and an updated proposal will be brought before council in two weeks.

njohnson@durangoherald.com

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