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Park district closes door on ‘real estate matter’

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By Vicky Gits

For the second month in a row, the Evergreen Park and Recreation District board concluded a regular meeting by closing the doors to the public for a discussion about an unidentified “real estate matter.”

The board of directors added the executive session to the agenda of the June 23 regular meeting at the last minute and did not reveal any details at the time. The Colorado Open Meetings Law has strict rules about closing meetings to the public, but boards can do so in the case of real estate and personnel matters.

The open meetings law also says a public body, prior to going into executive session, has to make a public announcement at the meeting about the particular matter to be discussed, in as much detail as possible, prior to voting to go behind closed doors.

Reached by telephone after the meeting, board President Allan Casey said the statement he made a month ago in regard to holding closed meetings still applied.

After the May 26 meeting in which some kind of real estate deal was under discussion, Casey said it would be a disadvantage to the district to reveal any interest in future land acquisitions.

“Disclosing such specifics may serve to unduly advantage the seller or may serve to motivate other potential buyers that could pre-empt any potential action of the district, causing the district to fail to meet its desired object,” he said.

Casey said the executive session lasted 45 minutes and that no action was taken afterward.

Feasibility study update

One of the board’s major initiatives launched this year, the community/arts center feasibility study, is nearing completion, said John Skeel, district executive director.

A final version of the report should be ready for a public presentation and public input at the board meeting Aug. 25, Skeel said.

The $37,500 study is being funded partly by the Center for the Arts Evergreen, which is contributing $12,500.

Skeel said Tuesday the consulting company had compiled a list of large and small facilities and the characteristics of potential users, and interviewed numerous civic, environmental and arts groups. Next it will analyze various community arts facilities in the region

Economic and Planning Systems, a California company with offices in Denver, was selected in April from six applicants to conduct the study.

The feasibility study is seen as the first step in realizing the master plan envisioned for Buchanan Park, the 67-acre property bounded by Evergreen and Bergen parkways.

The job includes determining the all costs associated with construction, operation and maintenance of the following:

• Community Center/Arts Building (20,000 to 30,000 square feet)

• Environmental education area (3,000 to 5,000 square feet)

• Theater, black-box or multi-use classroom (12,000 to 18,000 square feet)

Some residents who live in the vicinity of Buchanan Park have criticized the building plan as too elaborate and an unnecessary expense. The park district board is divided on the matter but in February agreed to go forward with funding a feasibility study as a preliminary step.

 

Media communications

At the behest of board President Casey, the board discussed how best to communicate with the media. Some felt it was better to allow only one person to deal with media people, while others said they wanted to be able to express their individual opinions as they saw fit.

“A person should be allowed to talk to anyone,” said board member Kit Darrow. “We were all elected by community members who look to us for our opinions. I don’t think we will all agree on everything. We shouldn’t have any trouble stating our beliefs.”

Casey said the most important thing was the outcome of a final vote. “To me, how I feel doesn’t matter after the vote is taken,” he said.

Roger Hoagland thought it was better to have a designated spokesperson, such as Casey. With one spokesperson there is more consistency in the message, he said. “There’s not a lot of he said, she said, after the meeting.”

Board member Peter Eggers said anyone who had an opposing opinion should have a right to express it in public, even though there could be unexpected consequences. “I don’t want to feel impeded as to what I want to say.”

“We are all adults and we have to realize the consequences of speaking in public. But the citizens look to us to flesh out the issues,” Darrow said.

New deck on Lake House complete

Recreation manager Ellen Stephan reported the new deck at the Lake House was completed in time for the wedding season and is attracting a substantial amount of new business. The deck adds the capacity to seat 50 to 60 more people.

Buchanan Park trail finished

Originally scheduled for completion in November, the Buchanan Park Trail was finished in June. The 3,500-foot asphalt trail connects the RTD parking lot with the Buchanan Rec Center lot and the Pioneer Trail to downtown Evergreen. The 8-foot-wide asphalt trail cost the park district $22,000, and Jefferson County Open Space paid $101,000. The trail is open to the public.

It was originally scheduled for completion last summer but was delayed due to negotiations with Denver, which owns 25 acres of Buchanan Park land. The contractor was Noble Excavating of Evergreen. The project includes a 210-foot spur that leads to a future veterans memorial.