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School-Bus Parking Gets WFCCA's OK

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has received its first approval to park and fuel its buses across from Westfield High. It got a green light from the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee.

The western part of the county has been growing rapidly, but all the bus-parking facilities are far away from the schools here. So the school system is considering using some 10 1/2 acres it already owns in Chantilly for this purpose.

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. It would be mainly used by those coming to Westfield and Chantilly high schools. Otherwise, the nearest such facility is 10 miles away.

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. Food-service employees would also be able to park there, and the parking lot would be lighted for safety.

At the Dec. 17 WFCCA meeting, some residents — as well as Bill Keech of the Westfields Corporate Center — questioned whether it was the best location for it, because of all the traffic. They worried about the traffic already here, plus the buses added to the mix.

But, said WFCCA Chairman Jim Katcham, "These buses are already taking kids to school there, so there wouldn't be an additional mass influx of buses." Besides, he said, if the bus lot is rejected, then "the county could sell the land, and offices could be built there — which would bring in more traffic. So this [facility] would be lower intensity."

Other residents were concerned about the aesthetics of all those big, yellow, school buses all parked together in one place. But as things stand now, said the WFCCA members, they're just parked all over the place in various residential neighborhoods. The WFCCA's Dick Frank noted two or three parked along the streets in his Gate Post Estates community.

The committee members also worried about possible vandalism to the buses. Said Katcham: "If you have them in a secure place, it would cost less in taxpayer dollars." The fence around the lot would be barbed wire, but the WFCCA asked the school system to do what it could to cover it up with landscaping.

The WFCCA then approved the proposal, but asked school-system representatives to have the county transportation office make sure that it would not cause any adverse effects on the traffic situation there.

The facility is expected to be operational between September and December 2003 and would probably be open from 5 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. The county Planning Commission will have the final say on the matter at its Jan. 9 meeting.