The Fairfax County School Board agreed last night to sell 35 acres of wooded land near Springfield to a developer and use the $12 million in revenue to speed new construction and building renovations throughout the system.
Board members said the infusion of cash from the sale of the so-called Pohick site, which is adjacent to South Run District Park, would allow a new elementary school to open in 2006, three years ahead of schedule and at a savings of $1.5 million. Renovations at Woodson High School, a middle school and 10 elementary schools also would be finished months sooner than planned, officials said.
School Board member Catherine A. Belter (Springfield), whose district includes the Pohick site, said she is sympathetic to neighbors who expressed concerns that development would bring more traffic to their already clogged roads. But Belter said that many schools are in need of renovations and that she thinks the sale is the right move.
"We keep seeing new kids coming in, and we need more classrooms," Belter said. "Parents have been upset with the amount of trailers, and we want to get students back in the schools." Crowded schools often use free-standing trailers as classrooms.
The Pohick site, which is bordered by the Fairfax County Parkway to the north and Huntsman Boulevard to the east, was given to the schools as part of a 1967 proffer agreement with a developer. In an unusual deal, the deed stated that the original owner could reclaim the land if it were used for anything other than a secondary school or high school.
The proposed buyer, Van Metre Communities Inc., is the successor to that owner and the only entity that can legally buy the site, school officials said. Board members said Van Metre recently approached the board and offered to buy the land.
School officials said the plot is too small for a high school and noted that the new south county high school, which is under construction, is only a few miles away.
School Board member Stephen M. Hunt (At Large) said it would have been irresponsible for the board to not consider Van Metre's offer. "Our options are to let it sit there or sell it and get revenue that we badly need," he said.
John N. Jennison, PTA president at Mantua Elementary School, which feeds into Woodson, said parents are happy to hear that the aging high school, which opened in 1962, will get its planned facelift more quickly.
"Hopefully our third-graders will enter a school that is completely renovated," Jennison said. "And the sooner they are done with Woodson, the sooner they can address other needs in the county."
But Richard O'Brien, who lives near the site, said the board should take more time to explore other alternatives. "They are rushing to judgment when there's no reason to rush," he said.
Albert Van Metre, chief executive of Van Metre Companies, said that if the sale goes through, the company will not seek a rezoning. Current zoning would allow about 100 houses.