The Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended approval of a conditional use permit that would allow the Children’s Kiva Montessori School to operate in two downtown buildings.
Officials at the charter school are seeking a temporary location while their permanent site undergoes renovations. The application next goes to the Cortez City Council for a public hearing and possible approval on Feb. 26, according to associate planner Neva Connolly.
The commission approved the recommendation 4-1 at its meeting Tuesday night. Commissioner Tom Butler opposed the plan, citing traffic and student safety concerns. Other commissioners, though, viewed the use of the buildings as temporary and noted that the Montessori school previously inhabited one of the buildings, without incident.
“I think the staff will take care of the kids,” said commissioner Robert Rime, referring to pickup and drop-off times.
Kiva students are currently taking classes at the Crow Canyon Archaeology Center while their permanent home at 601 N. Mildred Road is being cleared of asbestos. However, because the school will lose its temporary space at Crow Canyon when the center opens in March, the school is looking to take up residence at 25 N. Beech St. and 215 N. Linden St.
The school operated in the Beech Street building from 2015 to 2017. The Linden Street building is about four blocks west and formerly housed Goal Academy.
Kiva plans to use the Beech Street building for 40 to 47 students in kindergarten through fifth grade and six to eight adults. The Linden Street building would hold 10 to 15 students in grades six through eight, as well as two adults. According to Kiva’s conditional use application, the school proposed a maximum enrollment of 63 students.
Both sites are in the central business district, but regardless of zoning district, all schools require a conditional use permit because they could impact nearby neighborhoods.
Most of the planning commissioners’ follow-up questions at the Tuesday meeting revolved around traffic and parking concerns. Butler, the lone dissenting voter, said that he opposed the Beech Street use because of its potential effect on traffic and student safety.
“Thank goodness there hasn’t been a parking lot tragedy here,” he said.
At the Beech Street site, the school plans to follow pickup and drop-off procedures established from their previous use of the building, with students dropped off on North Street. At 215 N. Linden St., Kiva officials said that pickup and drop-off traffic would travel south on Linden Street, and students would unload onto the sidewalk along the east side of the building.
The school’s plans for parking would meet the seven-space requirement of the land use code, with six parking spaces for the Linden Street building and 12 leased spaces at 120 E. Main St. for the Beech Street building. The parking requirement for the Beech Street building, which was determined by the school’s estimated enrollment, additionally would need a special exception, though, since parking is off-site.
Kiva board member Stacey Weyand was present and addressed Butler’s concerns, emphasizing that school staff would safeguard students at the crosswalk.
Butler, however, said that he was also concerned about staff members getting hit.
Commissioner Rime said that the fact that Kiva had used the Beech Street site before without issue alleviated his concerns.
“Traffic is always a challenge,” Rime said, adding that when they occupied the space before, “I (went) by as school was getting out, and they were all supervised.”
If approved by City Council, the permit does come with conditions.
Local utility providers, along with relevant city departments and districts, must be notified and “satisfied,” especially in terms of building and fire code requirements. Any exterior lighting would need to be contained on the property, and the school would need to enforce the proposed traffic circulation plans outlined in the application.
Additionally, the permit would be subject to review in March 2020, although Kiva expects to be back at its North Mildred Road site by then.
When asked, Weyand said the March review was OK with Kiva leaders, adding that they see this as a temporary move unless complications arise.
She told The Journal last week that they expect to occupy the Linden and Beech street locations through the spring, although it depends on their North Mildred Road renovations. They are currently in the cleaning and clearing stage, she said at the meeting, although a burst pipe had delayed progress.