We are deeply troubled to learn that a neighborhood group in McLean is pressuring Dranesville Supervisor John Foust and his appointed Fairfax County Planning Commissioner John Ulfelder to oppose the approval of plans by the Falls Church City Schools to renovate and expand Mt. Daniel Elementary School. The matter is slated to come before the county’s Planning Commission next Wednesday.
There are serious problems with this. First, the group and county officials all along to this point have led the City’s schools to believe that they would not have a problem with the further development of the 7.3 acres on N. Oak Street in the county. The argument has been that the neighbors to the site would be much less happy were the City to sell the land to a developer for a residential project, and that keeping the site for the school would not represent a problem. In fact, the county’s planning staff has ruled that the proposed changes are “substantially in accord” with the county’s revised comprehensive plan.
Based on this, the City and its School Board has moved ahead with its planning for the site, including the passing of a public referendum to cover funding for it. The work on the project was to begin the day school let out last month, with the goal to open the school back up in time for the beginning of the school year in September 2016.
Secondly, the prospect of this Eleventh Hour disruption impacts children, a lot of them. This is not a case of some group wanting to keep a commercial or residential development from happening in their back yard. This is a case of seriously disrupting and denying to young children access to the means for a quality education.
There is no question that if a last-minute decision by the county’s Planning Commission to deny this application took place next Wednesday, then all the efforts to mend years of contention between Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church would be undermined, possibly irreparably.
This does not bode well for the county, much less the City, given the City’s plans for the development of the near 40 acres of land that were annexed into the City as part of the deal to sell the City’s water system to the county last year. At Monday’s F.C. Council and School Board work session, it was noted the county has a keen interest in elements associated with transportation and vehicular access as this project gets developed.
With a large town house development now being built across Route 7 from this site, the county will want to win the cooperation of the City for solutions that do not infringe negatively on that property. In sum, there should be a quid pro quo that links the county’s cooperation with the City’s need to expand Mt. Daniel and the City’s cooperation with the county’s need for special considerations on Rt. 7.