David Swan received a warm welcome and a peek into his future as a newly appointed Planning Commissioner during a March 20 work session where the group spent almost three hours discussing one agenda item.
Hoping to identify priorities for the Town Council to review at an upcoming work session, commissioners spent most of the meeting discussing the town's Capital Improvement Program.
Last month Michelle O'Hare, town planner, presented a CIP "wish list" to the commission for its review. Because the fiscal year 2007-08 budget had not been set at that time, the list could not accurately reflect what would be possible for the upcoming years, O'Hare said.
Now that town manager Steve Owen has met with department heads to create a draft budget, planning staff was able to return to the commission for direction.
"We have funds for fiscal years 2007 and 2008," said O'Hare during the commission's March 20 work session, "but we cannot fund those projects in the out-years. We are looking for suggestions from the commission on how to fund those years."
After reviewing the list of projects and their funding costs, Planning Commissioner Ted Hochstein requested a list be made to show the budgeted cost of a project versus the actual cost of a project once it is complete. Because many of the budgeted costs are under the actual cost amount, Hochstein would like to see how many times the cost is over what is budgeted, he said.
"We use the funding estimates as a place holder because we do not know what the actual cost will be until we begin building," said Owen. "It's not until you actually bid the project that you'll have an idea of what it's going to be and even then you many have to adjust it again."
ONE ITEM WHICH came in more than $1 million over budget was the proposed Nature Center for Runnymede Park. During the work session Dana Signer, program project manager for the town, reviewed possible cost-cutting measures. These were determined after a recently appointed committee, headed by council member Steve Mitchell, reviewed the architectural plans for the 4,000-square foot structure.
Overall the committee was able to reduce $180,000 in initial spending and hopes to move forward as planned, Singer said.
Henry Bibber, director of Community Development, outlined project priorities he felt the commission might agree with.
"We have $10 million more in projects than we have funding for," Bibber said. "So the Planning Commission's job, to a certain extent, is to balance that. Can we take $10 million out of proposed projects so we have a more balanced set of figures?"
One project, which Hochstein noted has been on the list for at least the last eight years, was the Station Street drainage improvements. Because he knew the commission wants that project completed, Bibber made sure to keep that a priority for the upcoming fiscal year. The Nature Center was another project kept at the forefront because of impending grant deadlines that must be met or else major funding for the project could be lost.
The Commission will hold a special work session Monday, March 27 at 7 p.m. to further discuss the CIP before recommending it for the council's review at its scheduled April 3 public hearing.
OTHER ITEMS on the commission's agenda included:
* An application for a condition use permit to allow a church in the currently vacant office space at 794 Center Street;
* A zoning ordinance text amendment to limit the parking of box trucks that exceed 12,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, in residential districts with a conditional use permit;
* A Comprehensive Plan review of the vacation of a public entrance and exit at the end of Summerfield Drive at the town's western boundary with Fairfax County.
These items will be heard at the commission's scheduled public hearing, April 3 at 7:30 p.m.