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The State of NoVa
Posted at 02:54 PM ET, 02/14/2012

Debate continues over Loudoun high school site as deadline approaches

As the due diligence deadline on a controversial land purchase for a new Loudoun County high school fast approaches, some Lansdowne residents are heightening their opposition to the deal, which they claim is fiscally and logistically irresponsible.

 The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted last month to extend the due diligence review period for the $20 million contract to purchase about 46 acres of property from the National Conference Center in Lansdowne. The deadline for the review is Friday, and the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to address the matter at its meeting Tuesday.

 According to Lansdowne resident John Powers, the supervisors will hear from at least two dozen concerned community members at Tuesday’s public input session.

 “We’re hoping that the board understands that we know we need another high school in the Ashburn area, but this is just not the site,” he said.

 The previous Board of Supervisors debated between the NCC property and another site known as Lexington Seven, an alternative 76-acre property off Route 7 near the Loudoun County Parkway. That site was deemed unsuitable because a four-lane road crossed the property, and because the final price of the larger parcel would have been higher than the NCC acreage, county officials have said.  

 Though county leaders have maintained that the NCC site offered the best location at the best value, residents have questioned the financial reasoning behind the purchase. The $20 million price tag for 46 acres is vastly higher than the per-acre value of the entire 112-acre NCC parcel, which was assessed at about $22.5 million in July, according to county records. There are also two liens on the property, records show.

 The prior board unanimously approved the contract in September, following a lengthy and heated debate between residents of the neighborhood surrounding the proposed site. Some members of the community welcomed the new school, and said they were pleased that their children would be within walking distance of the campus. Many noted that the school – which county leaders have referred to as the final component of a “three-school solution” to relieve overcrowding in the Ashburn area – was desperately needed as populations at nearby high schools continued to rise.

But other residents have voiced a growing list of concerns about the NCC property.

 Those community members have pointed to the impact of high school traffic on generally quiet neighborhood roads, and said they worry about how the backup will impact their morning commutes. They have questioned the environmental impact of building a school in an area that includes wetlands, a flood plain and a stream that feeds the Potomac River; and they have protested the potential loss of a proffered community park – including public sports fields supported by investments from nonprofit youth athletic organizations – that would be become part of the new school property. 

 Powers, who said there are more than 200 households in Lansdowne that remain firmly opposed to the site, said there are also worries about the high school’s proximity to a nearby sports bar and to the conference center, which hosts events that serve alcohol.

 “The security of the school will be compromised,” Powers said. “The school system will not be able to control who is on the property.”

Spokespeople for the county and for Loudoun County Public Schools declined to comment on whether the site may pose any potential conflict between a drug and alcohol-free school zone and the neighboring conference center and businesses.

By  |  02:54 PM ET, 02/14/2012

 
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