Fauquier school officials are looking for a new site for the county's third high school after the Board of Supervisors rejected 74 donated acres southeast of New Baltimore.
The board voted 3 to 2 on Thursday not to extend water and sewer lines to the site, which had been endorsed by the School Board. It also denied special exceptions for an above-ground pumping station and a reduction of open space. The majority of the supervisors said that providing the utilities would add millions to construction costs and that Route 605 is too dangerous for students and the traffic a school would generate.
"The positives do not outweigh the negatives," said Supervisor Richard W. Robison (R-Center), whose district includes the land developer Ed Miller had offered for the school. Robison said no other issue he has dealt with had generated as much response from constituents. He said he had been inundated with e-mail, letters and petitions and had been stopped by residents on the street who wanted to talk about it.
"Ninety-nine percent of us agree that we need a new high school, but not all of us would agree on where to put it," Robison said. He opposed the site along with Chairman Raymond E. Graham (R-Cedar Run) and Vice Chairman Harry Atherton (I-Marshall).
Critics of the decision said rejecting the land could delay construction of the school, scheduled to open in August 2007, by a year or more. School officials declined to comment.
Supervisors William G. "Bill" Downey IV (R-Scott), the site's most vocal board supporter, said it will cost $16 million to $43 million to buy land elsewhere, add more trailers at the two existing high schools and cover rising construction costs and possibly increased interest rates.
"We need to look at all the costs and fully compare them to the cost of something else," Downey said. "Sixteen million is a new elementary school that we need."
The board had postponed a May 12 vote on the school so two community meetings could be held. School officials said the school is needed to relieve crowding at Fauquier and Liberty high schools. In March, voters approved a $39.6 million school bond issue, but the measure did not specify where the school would be built or include funds to buy land.
Supervisor Chester W. Stribling (R-Lee) said he was torn between the urgency for a new school and the problems with its location. "If I had come up with a better site, I would be right there at it," Stribling said.
Route 605, a two-lane road, is slated for state-funded improvements. But some county officials have questioned whether the Virginia Department of Transportation would include funds in its six-year plan to reduce traffic congestion, flooding and steep hills on the road.
J. David Cubbage, the VDOT official who oversees transportation in Fauquier and Rappahannock counties, told the supervisors that 44 serious accidents occurred on Route 605 from 2000 to 2004, resulting in 63 injuries and one death.
"It's not the most dangerous road, but it certainly has numbers we need to address" by widening shoulders, improving drainage and enhancing sight lines, Cubbage said.
The vote followed an emotional plea to the supervisors from School Board Chairman Jay VanGelder (Cedar Run). He said the school would have a minor impact on traffic and would ease the commutes of students, some of whom live more than 15 miles from their high school.
VanGelder said the school would be an important community center, used not just for school functions but also for athletic leagues and charitable fundraisers.
"Is there any question about the need for a new high school?" he asked the supervisors.
VanGelder said it could cost $25 million to buy another site. "And if we go away from undeveloped land, then there's going to be a price tag" such as a long and arduous condemnation battle, he said.
Van Gelder said it would be cheaper for Fauquier County to pay for Route 605's needed roadwork -- at about $13.9 million -- than to pay for another school site.