LANSDOWNE ON THE POTOMAC: HS-8 School News
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The Lansdowne on the Potomac Board of Directors has been actively lobbying the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors for a public input session regarding an Ashburn Area High School (HS-8).
The HOA's efforts have been heard.
The Board of Supervisors will hold a public town hall meeting with the intent to update the community about HS-8.
Date: June 7, 2011
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: Belmont Ridge Middle School
The Board highly encourages all Lansdowne on the Potomac residents to attend this session and listen.
From Lori Waters, Supervisor, Broad Run District, with permission to rebroadcast:
"For over two years, the School Board and Board of Supervisors have been grappling with locating a site to build an Ashburn area High School (HS-8). A subcommittee formed after budget deliberations back in 2009 to evaluate whether or not additional school seats were needed in the Ashburn area, which ended with needing another elementary, middle, and high school. As part of those meetings, the subcommittee reviewed all the parcels above 5 acres that are available in the Ashburn area that could be considered for county or school facilities. At that time, the Lexington Seven site was on the list; it was reviewed; and it was eliminated by school staff.
Coming out of that subcommittee, our choices were limited. The board rejected the idea to place the high school on the county-owned property, across from the Ashburn Ice House. The two boards ultimately moved forward in asking for studies to convert the middle school to a high school and to examine the NCC site, which was in the midst of asking for a residential rezoning. The NCC site first came onto my radar screen as a possibility based on a request from a Lansdowne resident. The results of those studies were made public last fall. The conversion of the middle school was pretty much eliminated quite quickly due to costs and complications. NCC was pursued, and a community meeting was held in December to discuss this option, which was quite unusual considering that land acquisition negotiations take place during executive/closed session to maintain our negotiating position.
After that meeting, staff brought two new options to the board for consideration, which had come in by property owners. So the board reviewed those proposals, one of which was Lexington Seven. The other site was tied to a conversion of a commercial property to residential. The property owner later backed off on that idea, but that acquisition would still have required constructing a significant portion of a four-lane road and permanent busing of all students. NCC, Lexington Seven, and the other property were asked to provide best offers. The board evaluated all the proposals.
As you know, we are still in negotiation on the final details on terms with NCC, but I can share several reasons why the NCC site is the preferred option in my opinion. First of all, every site has its challenges and opportunities. In land use, there is never a "perfect" site, and we often face some level of community support and opposition for any facility that we try to locate. We just can't not build schools, so we have to work diligently through the issues, seek solutions to the identified challenges, and place reasonable conditions on our schools through the legislative land use process, just as we would with any developer.
The reasons that I choose NCC over Lexington Seven primarily include:
1) the higher land acquisition cost of Lexington Seven and a more reasonable cost with NCC;
2) NCC affords us opportunities to put in safety and traffic improvements (already needed) in Lansdowne to help with key intersections, like Riverpoint/Upper Belmont and Kipheart/Riverside, as well as traffic calming efforts along neighborhood streets;
3) NCC is a walkable school location, which will cut down on long-term capital and operating costs particularly associated with busing, while Lexington Seven would require busing every student. Note that bus drivers working even around 17 hours a week are considered "full-time" employees with full retirement, health, and other benefits, which increases operating costs for every new bus put into operation. More buses to lease means less availability of capital construction dollars to build needed schools. Higher gasoline prices means more dollars going to the transportation budget as compared to putting those dollars in the classroom;
4) NCC will develop - not if, but when and with what kind of development - whether a by right use or other use, (residential was proposed during the last few years, which most Lansdowne residents opposed). However, a by right development at NCC would not be required to install the same traffic improvements that we are discussing associated with the high school, so the community would be worse off with traffic (see the latest NCC traffic study). The study even recommends spreading the middle school and high schools start/end times in order to minimize conflicts;
5) Any site will require a legislative land use approval, which will allow for proffers and conditions to help mitigate impacts - for instance, I have already asked school staff to work on moving the stadium away from homes.
6) The Lexington Seven parcel is split by a four lane road, which would require building a bridge or a tunnel to access part of the facilities, but we couldn't stop students from crossing at grade, which means increased safety concerns;
7) We would have to pay for and construct the extension of Lexington Drive/Riverside Parkway to the current terminus in Janeila;
8) The Lexington Seven site has Route 7 frontage, which means that it has economic development and tremendous tax revenue potential by keeping it commercially zoned;
9) The only community entry/exit point for Potomac Farms is onto Lexington Drive - (Note that all communications from those residents thus far are in complete opposition to that location);
10) Purchase of Lexington Seven by the county could result in paying for extension of utilities to the Potomac Farms community (replacing their old water system was estimated by Loudoun at $4 million several years ago). The county typically makes developers provide hook up to public utilities at least for neighboring properties;
11) Lansdowne students will fill a great portion of the school, and student drivers would be in more commuter traffic headed east bound to reach the Lexington Seven site. Whereas NCC would mean that student drivers are traveling much shorter distances, or could even bike to school. Given the commuter traffic backing up on Riverside every morning, adding student drivers to that mix isn't a preferred or safe condition.
Finally, all the sites were considered and reviewed several times by both the School Board and the Board of Supervisors. We had to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each and reach a decision. Delaying this decision on a site could even jeopardize building HS-8 altogether as the next high school. Broad Run and Stone Bridge are still overcrowded. Tuscarora will fill up soon, too. Presently, HS-6 at Loudoun Valley Estates is slated for construction at the same time and opening the same year as HS-8. This means that boundaries would happen once. Delaying a contract purchase for HS-8 would mean that a new board and school board would basically be starting all over again when they take office in January. It would not surprise me that a delay in the land purchase would result in staff recommendations to build HS-6 first, delay HS-8 to a later date in the CIP, and consequently have World War III over boundaries for HS-6. We have a good choice for a school location, and we need to proceed to ensure that those seats are available for our students.
Even with a purchase decision by the BOS, there are still many steps to take to get this high school opened. We would like to share those steps and information with the community at a public meeting on Tuesday, June 7th at 6:30pm at Belmont Ridge Middle School. I hope that we can work together as a community to focus on getting HS-8 built and opened.
Thanks again, and I hope that I have addresses some of your questions about the Board's recent decision for HS-8. I welcome your continued input on how best to make this school work for our neighborhood and the larger community for all the students who will ultimately attend the high school at NCC."