District makes deal to get 1.5 acres

Homeowner Bill Padgett has little choice in matter, may have to move

Steamboat Springs native Bill Padgett may choose to continue to live in the home constructed for his parents in the 1940s, but it will have to be moved from its location on Crawford Avenue.

Padgett and the Steamboat Springs School District agreed in principle to a deal that will provide Padgett $568,000 for the 1.5-acre parcel of land on which his family's home and apple trees have stood for decades. The settlement must be signed by both parties and approved by a judge, which has not happened yet.

Padgett, however, had little choice in the matter. Earlier this year, the School Board announced its intentions to acquire his property through eminent domain, the right of government to take private property for public use. Padgett's property sits at the intersection of Laurel Street, Pawintah Street and Crawford Avenue and adjacent to Soda Creek Elementary School, where school officials say student safety has been jeopardized for years by unsolvable traffic-pattern problems.

A small parking area in front of Soda Creek Elementary used for student loading and unloading isn't large enough to safely accommodate school buses and parents' vehicles, the School Board said. In the past, the city and the school district have attempted to alter traffic patterns and use traffic directors, but to no avail, School Board President Paul Fisher said.

"There's been option after option tried, and nothing has helped," he said. "This will go a long way to alleviate the issue."

School Board member Tom Sharp said that because three streets and a creek border the school, the district had no other land options but to acquire Padgett's property.

"We've got to have the land," Sharp said. "It's a safety issue."

Charles Feldmann, Padgett's attorney, said his client's choices were limited.

"The School Board clearly, by statute, has the authority to move forward with (acquiring the land through eminent domain) once they prove there's a valid need, and there's clearly a need," Feldmann said. "My client has no desire to leave his family home that he's had forever."

Padgett, however, said he is comfortable with the agreement and will continue his efforts to maintain a good relationship with the school district. Padgett leases a portion of his property to the school district for a modular it has placed on his land.

"I understand there are some needs for the school," Padgett said. "It is a congested area related to traffic and safety for children."

A condemnation suit was scheduled for Friday in Routt County District Court, through which the district hoped to immediately acquire the land by right of eminent domain. Tuesday's settlement will be presented to a judge on Friday for approval, Sharp said.

"We're pleased as a board that we're able to complete this acquisition by mutual consent," Sharp said during an all-day School Board retreat Tuesday. "I think it's much better for all parties that we reach this agreement."

The district will pay Padgett $568,000 for the property. Under the terms of the agreement, Padgett will be able to remain on the property until Aug. 1. He has the right to move either or both of the houses on the property at his own expense. If the buildings are not removed by Aug. 1, the district likely will remove them, and those costs will be deducted from Padgett's compensation package, Sharp said.

The proposal was offered to the district by Feldmann and followed lengthy negotiations.

Padgett said his intentions are to have the family home moved to a location as close to its present site as possible.

The $568,000 compensation amount will be paid with funds provided to the district by the Education Fund Board more than one year ago. The original Fund Board gift for acquisition of the property is for up to $600,000, Fisher said.

The district doesn't have specific plans for the 1.5-acre site, though plans certainly will involve traffic flow and student pick-up and drop-off, Fisher said.

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