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School-Bus Parking Site Sought

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) needs another place to park and fuel its buses and it's eyeing a site across from Westfield High.

"The western part of Fairfax County has been growing quite a bit, and our centers are far away from [here]," said Sunny Sarna, FCPS coordinator in Design and Construction Services. "We own the land and have all the infrastructure we need to do it."

He was addressing the Nov. 19 meeting of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee, and the proposal received mixed reactions. The county Planning Commission will have the final say in the matter.

The location in question encompasses approximately 10 1/2 acres; proposed is a one-story, modular, wood-frame, office building to house 50 employees initially and 75 total, after a few years. The site would accommodate 150 buses and provide parking for school-system staff and drivers.

The automated, diesel-only fueling facility would be built by the county — not the School Board — and would be on the back portion of the site. A gated entrance would be operated electronically, via keypad, from inside the building. Sarna said the parking lot would be fenced and the landscaping would exceed county zoning requirements.

Tim Parker, FCPS assistant director of Transportation Services, said the parking lot would be lighted and would afford a "secure environment" for the school system's drivers and equipment. And Sarna noted that food-service employees would also be able to park there.

"It would be mainly for [those coming to] Westfield and Chantilly high schools," he said. "The nearest facility we have is 10 miles away and, with traffic, it's a waste of the taxpayers' money for them to be driving so far. We'll save money this way."

Sarna expects the facility to be operational between September and December 2003. He anticipates it being open from 5 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. and said site plans for the proposal are already being reviewed by county staff.

"It is an enormous, impervious surface — that parking lot is huge," said WFCCA member Jim Hart. "Could you add some green vegetative islands?" Sarna agreed with his observation and said he'd look into it. He also said that the lights would focus downward, but the WFCCA's Chris Terpak-Malm said that "shielded lighting might be preferable."

Georgette Kohler of the Rock Hill Civic Association wondered if a hill there would be leveled down, and Frank Ojeda of the same community asked how big the fuel tank would be. Parker said it would hold 10,000 gallons; he said the buses hold 30-100 gallons each. And he said the tankers would enter the site from Stonecroft Boulevard.

"Has the School Board looked at permeable cement?" asked Ojeda. "It'll allow more stormwater to run into the land." Sarna replied that it can't be used for roads and parking lots of this nature and size.

Gil Kesser of Sully Station was pleased that the facility would be landscaped, but had some reservations about the location. "It's one of the most scenic areas in our county," he said. "Fairfax County school buses will get the best views." And he noted that 150 school buses coming into the Westfields area of Chantilly during rush hour concerns him: "Sully Station residents also have to drive on those roads, and they can get very congested."

But Sarna said the county "didn't feel this would impose any burden. And all these buses would not come at the same time." Kesser also asked to see more detailed landscaping plans, plus a drawing of the building. Sarna said he'd bring them to a future WFCCA meeting.

In favor of the plan was Rocky Run resident Terry Spence who liked the idea of putting the buses in a "safe and secured area." After another visit to the WFCCA, Sarna will take the proposal, Jan. 9, to the Planning Commission.