The Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday approved an application for a conditional use permit for the Children’s Kiva Montessori School to move into the former Montezuma County Justice Building.
The permit was approved with a condition for the city engineer to consider installing a school zone in the area and with a recommendation from the Cortez Police Chief Roy Lane to fence along the police access lane before children are allowed to play there.
The permit was approved with a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Danny Giannone voted no after discussion throughout the meeting about communication with the current tenants of the building at 601 N. Mildred St. Current tenants are The Bridge Emergency Shelter and the Cortez Day Labor Center.
“I am going to vote no, not because it doesn’t fit,” Giannone said. “I just do not think it is this easy, so I just want this to go to City Council with that no vote so it does warrant a little extra attention.”
The Bridge’s vice president, Jim Rogers, emphasized that he and Bridge director Laurie Knutson were attending only to gather more information.
“For a number of years, The Bridge has been in that same unenviable position that the school has been in, of not knowing exactly what is next, so we know how anxiety-producing that is,” Knutson said. “I wish us all well.”
Knutson also raised concerns about the proposed school’s proximity to the Montezuma County Detention Center and encouraged the school to fence the property.
“I completely support you wanting a permanent home, but there are a couple of concerns I have because I have watched the foot traffic that occurs around the Justice Building for the last five years,” Knutson said.
Stacey Weyand, elementary and middle school board member of the Children’s Kiva Montessori School, answered questions from the board.
Weyand said the school project would include demolition and asbestos abatement. She added that the school board expects $200,000 in remediation costs and said the school plans to move into the building in August.
“That is a tall order to have ready to go for class. And personally, to have no backup plan for the Day Labor Center and The Bridge, that is hard for me to wrap my head around,” Giannone said. “I would really like to see a timetable. I would really hate to pass this, say ‘OK, go for it,’ and then everything falls through and the construction doesn’t happen, and The Bridge is gone with no school there, either.”
Weyand told the board that the school does not have anywhere else to go and has outgrown its current building.
“Due to open contracts with the county, we did not feel like it was ever our place to speak to their lessees. I thought that was a breach in our communication with the county and not an appropriate step for us to take,” Weyand said. “We really do not have anywhere else to go.”
Associate planner Neva Connolly and commissioner Rebecca Levy reminded the commission that communication issues between the county and The Bridge and Day Labor Center were not necessarily the commission’s concern.
“Our job is to basically determine and vote on whether or not we find this application meets the conditions and the land use code,” Levy said. “That is the only thing we can think about when we deliberate on this, unfortunately, but I do feel like it would be in the county’s interest to make sure The Bridge has someplace to go because that is a service that we all benefit from.”
The motion to approve the conditional use permit was approved by the Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission and will be brought before Cortez City Council on April 24.