Prior to its Sept. 23 meeting, the Fairfax County School Board got an earful at a public hearing regarding the sale of 35.5 acres of land at the "Pohick Site."
Under the proposal, the Fairfax County Public Schools would sell the 35.5-acre piece of land in the Springfield District for $12 million in order to generate additional funds for the school's Capital Improvement Program and move a number of construction projects along ahead of schedule.
The Pohick land, located south of the intersection of Huntsman Boulevard and the Fairfax County Parkway, is first on the school system's priority list, mainly because the deed to the land contains a reverter clause that allows the school system to sell the land back to the developer if it is not used for a secondary school.
Before the land can be sold, however, the school system must declare it surplus, a decision that has not yet taken place.
"We haven't decided anything," said School Board member Cathy Belter (Springfield). "We have the site, and the builder will be moving forward eventually." She added that the Fairfax County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors both have plans to examine the property in the meantime. The Board of Supervisors has scheduled an Oct. 18 public hearing on the issue at the Fairfax County Government Center. According to Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield), that public hearing is a courtesy, since the Board of Supervisors really has no say on what the School Board does with the land.
"I know that it's the will of the Board that we go along with them," said McConnell of the School Board.
THE POHICK property is one of 14 vacant sites which FCPS owns and is examining as part of the "Classrooms for Kids" initiative. The goal of that program is to determine which pieces of land should be sold in order to accelerate county construction projects.
With the decision to build a new high school and middle school for the south county at the Laurel Hill Site in Lorton, the Board this summer began investigating the sale of the Pohick property, since it was not allowed, under the terms of the deed, to use the land for anything else.
Van Metre Homes of Burke, which built many of the homes in the South Run Crossing community adjacent to the Pohick land, is the developer involved.
At the Sept. 23 hearing, that proposal met with support from those whose schools would stand to benefit from the additional money. Among those who expressed support were Arlene Pripeton, president of the Woodson High School Parent-Teacher Association, and several other elementary-school PTA presidents.
"The whole of the Woodson pyramid is in support of this idea," Pripeton said. Others, like Robert Frost Elementary PTA president Laura Meade, praised the school system's "out-of-the-box thinking."
Others, especially those who live in the South Run Crossing community, expressed concern that they were not informed of the Board's decision
"I and many of my neighbors are not opposed to the county selling off unwanted land," said Richard O'Brian, who lives in South Run Crossing. "We do, however, have some issues with the sale and how it was advertised."
Another neighbor, Kurt Lauer, said he and many of his neighbors didn't find out about the proposal until it appeared in a local paper.
Winnifred Shapiro, chair of the Fairfax County Park Authority board, shared her concerns with the sale, and her hopes that the land could be set aside for recreational use.
The decision to make the land a park, said Belter, is not the School Board's to make, under the terms of the reverter clause. She did say, however, that the developer could make the decision to add green space to its proposed development, when it takes place.