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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Planning Commission endorses school for Bailey's Crossroads



This building is on the site of a proposed apartment project on Columbia Pike.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission approved a motion Nov. 5 calling for the Board of Supervisors to approve a county staff report recommending an amendment to the county’s Comprehensive Plan to allow a mixed-use development in Bailey’s Crossroads. There was no opposition from any of the commissioners.

The development would be carried out by a public/private partnership on a 7.4-acre site along Columbia Pike between Moncure Avenue and Radley Acura, known as the “Southeast Quadrant.” AvalonBay would build a 250-unit apartment building on part of the property. If the BoS agrees to move forward on amending the Comprehensive Plan, the next step is a rezoning process.

About 3.5 acres along Moncure is owned by the county, which plans to use it for a new elementary school.  It would be an urban-style school with four or five stories, Brent Krasner of the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning, said at the Planning Commission hearing.

A school is “one option identified by the county,” said AvalonBay representative Mark Looney, of the Cooley LLP law firm. “We don’t know what the final option would be.” He expects the project will be a two-step process, with the apartment building going forward first, and the details for the county-owned property filled in later.

Clyde Miller, of the Holmes Run Valley community, urged the Planning Commission to oppose a school on Moncure Avenue. The site is “not a suitable location for a public school,” he said, and local residents haven’t been given adequate opportunity to review and comment on the proposal.

The school would be too close to Columbia Pike and too close to the proposed apartments, Miller told the commissioners. Apartment residents would be able to look right into the school windows, which would be a security risk, and there wouldn’t be enough space for emergency vehicles and for an escape route for 950 students in case of disaster.

Miller has urged the county to instead consider building a new school on the site of the Willston Center in Seven Corners. That building, which used to be a public school decades ago, is now being considered for a county office building as part of a Seven Corners redevelopment proposal.

Commissioner Janet Hall (Mason) asked Krasner whether the plan for school on Moncure would preclude the Willston site from being converted to a school later, and he said it would not.  

Suzie Wells, a resident of  Sleepy Hollow Manor, also complained that the community hadn’t been informed about the project. She said there are a lot of problems with the new Bailey’s Upper Elementary School, the county’s first urban-design school.

When asked by at-large commissioner Tim Sergeant about recreational facilities at the school, Krasner said there would be playing fields on top of a one-level parking structure.
According to Hall, the school board is desperately looking for a solution to the severe overcrowding at schools in the area. The proposal for a school at the Moncure site “has potential,” she said. “I don’t think it’s perfect.”

New schools won’t be like the old ones, Hall said. “They will not be surrounded by lots of green space. You  don’t need that for a good education. What you need are good teachers.”

25 comments:

  1. Uh, with the obesity epidemic in this country -- yes, it is real -- "lots of green space" might be important....

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    1. I attended an urban school and was not obese as a kid - of course I walked to school every day.

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    2. Sorry -- do you have a point?

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    3. I find it interesting how much more we expect from our schools and teachers above teaching our kids. Schools need to require community service to instill empathy and caring in our kids - School must remain open so kids get their hot meals (that they don't get at home), and now we have to build schools that include green space because of the obesity problem in this country.

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  2. "Commissioner Janet Hall (Mason) asked Krasner whether the plan for school on Moncure would preclude the Willston site from being converted to a school later, and he said it would not."

    What will preclude the Willston site from being converted to a school is the fact that FCPS doesn't own that land and Supervisory Penny Gross will never allow the County to give the land back to the schools.

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  3. Moving forward with this project is an excellent decision for this area. In addition, an urban elementary school in this development should also be seriously considered. Many of the concerns expressed by critics of an elementary school in this location, especially the alleged "security" concerns are, to be polite, nonsense.

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    1. The project should move forward but with the existing homeless shelter intact at this location and the new school or schools located at the vastly more appropriate Willston Center site.

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    2. Why did the plans for the East County Government/Human Services Center at this location suddenly change? http://annandaleva.blogspot.com/2013/02/east-county-office-building-coming-to.html

      The school system didn't ask for this location. FCPS wants the Willston location for the new school.

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  4. Mixed use is good, shopping district is good, makes sense, school children on this busy roadway does not. I also went to an urban school but it was not in the middle of a retail district. Between the busses and pedestrian crossing safety this choice could be a disaster if not planned correctly. At best the school's entry should not be on the Pike, access should be off a side street.

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  5. More fine reporting. (And no, I'm not the reporter's mother...)

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  6. The 3.5 acres should become a park! The first three floors of the apt. building should become a K-3 school!

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    1. Why stop there? The entire parcel should be a park. A park with Bocce Ball Courts where kids can come and play to fight the obesity epidemic. Let's move kids!

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  7. In a recent letter to the community it was revealed that FCPS was not involved in the location of a school at this site. The County came to the school system with the idea.The school system wants the Willston site.

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  8. What are the problems with Bailey's Upper Elementary?

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    1. No playground is the main complaint from the students.

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  9. Here is my nightmare vision! A vertical school of 20 stories! Three level underground parking for the staff! Floors 2-6 for a elementary school...a 7th floor "green space" play area, floors 8 to 12 for a middle school. floor 13 another "green space" sports field . And a high school on floors 14 thru 20!..

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    1. I love it. If the next stop is heaven I am going back to school.

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    2. Wait! Wait! I've read about this! http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/book/sideways-stories-wayside-school#cart/cleanup

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  10. The only problems with Bailey's Upper Elementary that I've heard of are kids getting hurt on the black top. Even the neighbors who said the sky would fall with all those school buses going through their neighborhood admit that traffic isn't really any worse. Perhaps Ms. Wells or someone else from the neighborhood could provide detaisl about all "the problems" at the new Bailey's.

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    1. Here are the pertinent parts (regarding schools) provided to the Planning Commission:
      I have to admit that I was happy to hear of the possibility of a new school in the Bailey’s Crossroads area – where much of the overcrowding exists. To be frank, this is where I thought a school would be built when I voted for the new school bond last year.
      I understand there is limited land, so I am not inherently against a vertical school concept. However, I ask that this board consider how we can learn from the less than ideal aspects of Bailey’s Upper. I urge you to place the school as far back from the busy Columbia Pike as possible … especially if the lanes are going to be increased from 4 to 6. I urge you to ensure there is an indoor gym, and outdoor, green play space (and not at the expense of park space that is required with the proposed residential buildings). I urge you to ensure there is a room large enough to hold many (ideally all) of the students for assemblies, concerts, etc. I urge you to ensure there is adequate parking, so neighbors and businesses aren’t impacted. Finally, I strongly urge you to encourage the development of a specification or guidelines which (1) defines an urban school and (2) provides design requirements for such a school. The Guidelines for School Facilities in Virginia’s Public Schools and certainly, the existing FCPS Education Specifications do not apply to Upper Bailey’s, and likely won’t apply to this school. I will point out that Bailey’s Upper is about 3.4 acres, and it looks like this parcel is about 2.5 acres at most. Is this the new FCPS standard?
      If I understand correctly, there is uncertainty whether this school will ever be built. And if it is built, this will happen after the residential properties. To address the increase in student population that will come with increased residents, the existing comprehensive plan requires developers to provide a per student contribution under the current formula, based on Fairfax County Public Schools standards. I urge that Avalon Bay be held to this requirement until the new school is built.

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  11. Great another school. What do you call this one, UPPER UPPER BAILEYS. Address the issues that are causing the overcrowding, otherwise plan on 10 more schools in short order or watch anonymous 8:51am vision come to fruition.

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  12. "[Schools] will not be surrounded by lots of green space. You don’t need that for a good education."

    No, what you don't need that for is training 8-year-olds for a decade of crushingly monotonous regurgitation in the service of standardized testing. You do very much need green space as a way of educating the entire child.

    Commissioner Hall's statements seem excruciatingly out of touch. Simply being a member of both the Planning Commission and the PTA does not somehow generate the credentials of an educator.

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    1. "[Schools] will not be surrounded by lots of green space. You don’t need that for a good education."

      With proper planning they could be.

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  13. of course they approved it. they approve everything in the end no matter how bad an idea it is and how many people don't want it.

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  14. How about this space for a private school? My kids thrived at the old Fairfax Brewster school on Glen Forest Ave off Route 7, which had only a blacktop playground and was multi storied. Parents or small buses would drop off kids, lessening pedestrian accidents, and parents would be able to take lack of green space into the decision to enroll their children.

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