Feeling that it needed a better grasp of how city residents felt about the issue, the Fairfax City Council decided during a work session Tuesday to host public outreach meetings before making a decision on the location of the future police station on Tuesday, July 22.
While citizens who strongly favor either the current John C. Wood Complex site or the proposed City Hall site have voiced their opinions to their elected officials, Fairfax Mayor Rob Lederer said much misinformation has circulated within the community on issues such as traffic impact on both sites.
Additionally, discussing the location of the proposed public safety building had some council members saying that they had opened a Pandora's box of other issues, including the need for a community center and more ball fields, as well as the feasibility of having an amphitheater at Van Dyck Park.
"The issue has expanded tremendously over the community," said Lederer.
After conducting the outreach meetings, the council plans to take one of two actions on July 22: decide on the location of the police station, or place the decision in the hands of voters as a November advisory referendum.
In informal discussions Tuesday evening, the council was divided over which course to take. Council members Scott Silverthorne and Gary Rasmussen leaned towards putting the issue on the November ballot. Several citizens accused the council during a June 10 public hearing of misleading the community by backpedaling on the issue.
"In a matter of weeks, we could dismantle that trust unnecessarily," Silverthorne said.
By having an advisory referendum, the voters can voice their opinion, he said.
"There are a lot of new facts that the public should have the opportunity to consider," added Silverthorne.
Council members Patrice Winter, Jeff Greenfield and Joan Cross said that as elected representatives, they should make a decision soon, because putting the issue on the November ballot would delay the project for possibly a year.
"To delay this is to keep them [the police] out of new facilities for a year, maybe more," Winter said.
Council member Gail Lyon asked about what the costs would be if the project were put on hold. City manager Bob Sisson replied that construction costs would be unknown, as they depend on the existing market.
BEFORE COUNCIL MEMBERS aired their opinions, they heard from project architect Elliott Law and several city staff the findings of various questions raised during the June 10 hearing. According to a staff memo:
* To accommodate a T-ball field at the John C. Wood site, the police station would need to be two stories instead of one story.
* All proposed project work, with the exception of the community meeting room, could be constructed within the $20 million bond funds budget.
* An educational habitat at the John C. Wood site would not be affected.
* A large meeting room for community use could be constructed at John C. Wood for roughly $330,000. The meeting room could convert into two classrooms. If the city wanted to build a cafeteria/gymnasium-sized room, the cost would range up to $710,000.
* Fifty additional parking spaces would be needed to accommodate the modified use of Green Acres. The cost of the parking spaces, $90,000, has been included in the feasibility study.
* If the police station were to be built at the City Hall site, traffic would not impact peak travel times, as the majority of police staff travel during other hours. If the police remained at John C. Wood, traffic could reduce, because the city's Parks and Recreation Department would move to Green Acres.
The Green Acres area could see increased traffic from the Parks and Recreation classes, with an estimate of 1,900 trips to and from Green Acres each week, and heaviest use occurring on Saturdays and lightest traffic on Sundays.
Greenfield said he was concerned about the potential traffic that could result at Green Acres, but Lederer replied that the community meeting space resulting from the City Hall expansion and addition would take some of that volume away from Green Acres.
* Other sites for the police station appeared too costly. The city would have to purchase and refit the GM Motors site on Lee Highway, and over half of the Rebel Run property is in the flood plain.