Loudoun County Public School Officials:
A Vision for Lovettsville to Consider**What's Wrong With Wheatland**NEW 2010 Student Distribution Map**Ways to Get Involved**About Us
What opportunities for future community schools in Lovettsville (middle and high schools) and Hillsboro (elementary school expansion) have been effectively sabotaged by (either through incompetence or intention) Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) planning staff over the last 5 years ?
1. In 2006, LCPS staff reject the Miller's offer of $29,000/acre to sell their farm located contiguous to the Town of Lovettsville and within sewer range. Proof of School Board's knowledge does not exist!.
2. Instead, in 2006 LCPS staff issued letter of intent to pay $57,000/acre for Wheatland Farm.
3. In 2007, instead of trying to negotiate with the Millers, LCPS planning staff negotiate contract with Mr. Grubb (Wheatland property) for $40,000/acre.
4. In 2008, owners of the Scott airstrip in Lovettsville submit proposal to sell their land in response to LCPS' Request for Proposals (RFP). No record exists of LCPS staff contacting adjacent landowners to assemble adjoining parcels (now known as the McDonough Assemblage).
5. Another response to the 2008 RFP was submitted to LCPS proposing a property contiguous with Hillsboro Elementary. No record exists that LCPS staff informed the School Board members or Supervisors of the Hillsboro site RFP response.
6. No record exists of Mr. Cangiano's response to the 2008 RFP, yet that procurement resulted in a contract in Feb 2009 to purchase his Wheatland Farm for a net cost of $67,000/acre. A contract that was negotiated on behalf of Loudoun citizens by an attorney that arguably had a conflict-of-interest due to his previous business relationship with Mr. Cangiano.
7. In April 2009, Jim McDonough negotiated contracts with Scott and surrounding landowners to sell the Lovettsville McDonough Assemblage to the School Board for $56,000/acre. The proposal inspired Mr. Cangiano to drop his price, but citizens rejected LCPS' proposal for a Wheatland Farm school complex.
8. LCPS staff did nothing, waiting for the 1-year McDonough Assemblage contracts to expire. And LCPS staff did nothing to acquire land offered next to Hillsboro Elementary (aka Crim and/or Moler sites). Both sites would have provided land for future schools IN communities of Lovettsville (MS/HS) and Hillsboro (ES) in accordance with the County's Comprehensive Plan. Instead LCPS staff express intent to "water down" the County's Comp Plan so they can continue efforts to site schools in Wheatland, "cooincidentally" nearby Mr. Cangiano's acres of building lots awaiting final subdivision.
9. Throughout 2010, LCPS has continued efforts to secure land in Wheatland for one (perhaps more) schools.
10. In July 2010 Lovettsville citizen group C.L.A.S.S presented Supervisors a conceptual plan, originally developed by SmallTownSchools. The proposal would require acquisition of land currently for sale (known as the Shoene or Lennar site) with a purchase price that could be less than $5M. The contiguous Engle site may also be available. Mayor Walker has strongly objected to the proposal stating her Park is "off the table" for schools (even a land trade is not negotiable) and the Engle parcel must be reserved for an industrial park.
.....Unlike sites LCPS has been expending funds throughout 2010 advancing, which are miles from Lovettsville in Wheatland, and on remote Fry Farm or Picnic Woods Roads, a VIABLE OPPORTUNITY has returned for siting BOTH middle and high schools in range of Lovettsville utilities, hike/bike trails and library/fire/rescue services.
11. In Dec2010, the McDonough Assemblage became available again, yet LCPS staff have done NOTHING to evaluate the site or negotiate a contract. NOTHING. Yet LCPS has continued efforts (extending a letter of intent) to purchase Cangiano's land for a new elementary school in Wheatland - signaling THE END of Hillsboro ES and quite possibly as a future Lovettsville MS/HS. Because if all other options continue to be sabotaged effectively, Wheatland will likely be re-considered in 5+ years when current western middle/high schools become intensely overcrowded (Harmony, Woodgrove, Loudoun Valley and Blue Ridge)and parents will beg for relief anywhere.
Why advocate for community schools? One reason is VDOT offers grants for sidewalks and bike paths to localities that make a committment for making Safe Routes to School. Why is it no Loudoun community is represented in the grants awarded over the last 4 years? Could it be because pedestrian/bicycle access to LCPS schools is a foreign concept to LCPS Administrators? It is unlikely Loudoun taxpayers will ever see relief when our leadership turns a blind eye to cost-effective pedestrian accessible alternatives and instead locates schools far, in some cases miles away, from their student populations.
We ask Supervisors to please take a leadership role and acquire these sites while they are currently available. Catoctin and Blue Ridge votes were promised the 2007 bond included land acquisition funds for a high school. If for no other reason than the SIGNIFICANT POTENTIAL FOR COST SAVINGS THESE OPTIONS REPRESENT!!! A precedent already exists for giving the Park relocation option a chance, Mr. Burton and County staff conducted a detailed analysis of Franklin Park for HS-3 in response to citizen requests. At that time, Franklin Park had over $5M of improvements on the ground which made it less cost-effective for siting schools. However, that argument can't be made for the minimal costs spent so far on the Park designs when compared to the $Millions wasted by LCPS staff advancing Wheatland school sites. The bleeding needs to end.
County taxpayers do NOT have the money to waste. Parks are definitely important, but so are schools. While Mayor Walker has worked to keep a high school out of Lovettsville since at least 2006, the vast majority of Lovettsville Town and area citizens want schools AND a Park. Our proposal is a win/win and the only option that offers pedestrian-friendly Schools and a Park.
Will efforts to keep these schools far from Lovettsille continue? LCPS' former Wheatland proposal deeply concerned citizens because it demonstrates that LCPS and the School Board majority have no regard whatsoever in protecting Loudoun's rural heritage, a principle embedded in Loudoun County’s Revised General Plan, which states:
- “The rural heritage and economy that has given Loudoun its truly unique character for more than two centuries must be preserved and enhanced. Although some development may occur in clusters, overall residential use in the policy area will be limited in order to retain the economic, ecological, and scenic value of the countryside. Conservation and cluster design of residential areas, along with the permanent protection of undeveloped land, will protect the area’s rural character and significantly enhance the rural economy.” Chapter 2, Section 6b
- “Public school sites should be located at the focus of the attendance area and will provide safe and convenient access for students. All public schools will be linked to adjacent neighborhoods by sidewalks or trails on both sides of roadways and crosswalks, and where possible, linked to greenways or trails.” Chapter 3, Sec. 9a4
- “Whenever possible, new public schools in the Rural Policy Area will be located in or immediately adjacent to the Existing Villages, towns, and Joint Land Management Areas (JLMAs).” Chapter 3, Sec 9a8
- “Loudoun County’s quality of life is a key competitive advantage that is vital to the economic base. The County offers a distinctive sense of place, a beautiful rural environment of mountains, valleys, farms, estates and open space, charming small towns and existing villages, and well-planned suburban communities in proximity to employment corridors. Maintaining these distinctive places and their accompanying sense of community are important advantages for Loudoun County in a competitive marketplace.” Chapter 4, Section 3d
- “Loudoun County has long recognized the value of retaining the Rural Policy Area as the location of a 240 year-old farming community. These farms and communities are important economic, scenic, and historic resources. However, new residential subdivisions have developed alongside the farms and traditional villages at accelerating rates that now pose a threat not only to land and other natural resources, but also to the rural economy and the area’s centuries-old character. Residents throughout the County are concerned about keeping rural Loudoun a vital, indentifiable place. Loudoun County for almost two decades has worked to protect this valuable rural resource.“ Chapter 7
- “New non-rural commercial uses that are not compatible with the dominant agricultural land use pattern will be allowed to locate only in the Towns. The County may permit non-agriculturally related commercial uses by special exception in the Rural Policy Area if the use in agriculturally and rurally compatible in scale and intensity, poses no threat to public health, safety and welfare, and if the use helps to preserve farmland and open space and continue agricultural operations. “ Chapter 7
- “Land development in the Rural Policy Area will retain rural economic opportunities, preserve farms, forests, open space, and the rural character of the landscape through conservation subdivision design, clustering, and the preservation of large lots at low density.” Chapter 7
- NOTE: There is no explicit policy regarding non-residential development in the Rural Policy Area. However, the Plan does lay out policy for development in Suburban and Transitional Areas: “Non residential uses will include commercial, business and institutional uses developed at a scale that would allow them to blend effectively (visually and spatial) into a rural landscape.” or “The scale and the volume of the primary built mass and accessory elements should not dominate over the natural landscape.” or “Non-residential uses will be consistent with the scale of the surrounding developments and the rural landscape. Individual buildings will not be greater than 40 feet in height and 150 feet in length. Building heights will relate to the surrounding landscape and heights of adjacent structures.” Chapter 11, Sec d3
We encourage you to get involved and help our efforts to preserve rural Loudoun and to insist County officials work cooperatively with communities and citizens to find ways to site these facilities closer to existing population centers that offer various amenities and that would benefit from the economic development brought by schools. We simply can’t afford to deny the cost benefits of Smart Growth policies.
According to Planning Commissioners Journal editor in Back to School for Planners, “Since the sixties, 'bigger is better' education has encouraged the consolidation of school districts... to build huge and expensive school facilities at the outskirts of town. But this has carried additional costs... For too long, in too many communities, planning for schools has been considered the exclusive domain of school officials... What is needed, instead, is a partnership [for those that] share a common goal: the best possible environment for student achievement. [Because]working for anything less is the most expensive proposition of all.”