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Resurrection school dispute boils over into lawsuit over leases

LOVELAND — A simmering dispute between Resurrection Christian School and Resurrection Christian Church has boiled over into a lawsuit, with the school attempting to force compliance with its long-term lease.

For more than a year, the two entities, which are related but separate, have been trying to work through differences regarding school governance and lease issues. The disagreement caused the school to put an expansion on hold in April 2022. The expansion plans with the city of Loveland were withdrawn a few weeks ago, according to city planner Kerri Burchett, who said a note accompanying the action indicated that the school had decided against expanding on the site.

As noted in April 2022, Pastor Jonathan Wiggins said the school was operating out of compliance with its bylaws, and school Superintendent Jerry Eshleman decried inaccuracies and “silliness and folly” of the church’s position.

Resurrection Christian was created in 1998 by members of the church on adjacent property. It was set up as a separate entity with its own board of directors. Two leases lay out the relationship between the parties as it involves the site in northeast Loveland. The leases are for 99 years at $1 rent per year.

Over the past year, according to the lawsuit, the parties have attempted to resolve issues using discussions and two mediation sessions.

The lawsuit seeks to “clarify, confirm and enforce” the lease agreements and asks for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent the church from interfering with its operations.

The school has about 1,600 students, the lawsuit said. It said that most recently, the church has attempted to restrict use of some facilities, including athletic fields, preschool and parking areas. A new facility-use agreement attempts to circumvent the terms of the leases, the lawsuit said.

In a letter to parents of students, Eshleman said that, “…we can truly say we’ve done everything possible to resolve this internally as well as with the aid of mediation.”

He told parents that the intent of the lawsuit is to protect all aspects of the school operations, including use of athletic fields, until the dispute is finally resolved.

“RCS strongly believes this lease, coupled with the precedent of decades of use of the spaces in question, establishes our right to use them. Our school has enjoyed almost exclusive, unencumbered use of the athletic fields since 2003 without objection from REZ until 2022. The fields and various spaces inside the building are absolutely essential to the operation of the school as they would be with any middle/high school,” he said.

“The church is entitled to its position and opinions, and we fully respect that. Thankfully, there exists a legal mechanism to sort this out. The 99-year lease is a legal document, and we seek legal help from a court to provide clarity and protection, which, in the end, will benefit both the church and school,” he wrote.

A request for comment sent to Wiggins was not responded to as of publication time.

The lawsuit is Resurrection Christian School v. Resurrection Christian Church, case number 2023cv30600 filed July 28 in Larimer County District Court. 

Source: BizWest