Our View: . . . Battling myriad misconceptions

Posted: November 23, 2013

Misconceptions, huh? Yes, critics of the C&S proposal cite its “many unknowns.” This is a blanket misconception and, frankly, news to us. Let’s review the others, specifically, starting with . . .

 Site — Advocates for keeping the school on Jefferson repeatedly note their preferred parcel exceeds the recommended minimum size for elementaries (10 acres) posited by the state Board of Education while the C&S tract does not. What is overlooked, perhaps conveniently, is that the sloping topography on Jefferson severely constricts the footprint for actual construction, particularly of outdoor amenities (e.g., a playing field) included in the “bridging document.”

Overlooked as well is that 2.14 acres of this site are already in use at the existing John Kerr, whose future as an educational facility may not — perhaps will not — include the wrecking ball.

Conversely, all 9.3 acres of the C&S site will be put to good use. It’s a tight, tidy package. Even the rock and soil extracted to make a “tabletop” for the school will be crushed and used as fill, on site. By contrast, to make the Jefferson location work, its developers will be obliged to haul considerable fill to the site, thereby offsetting— to a substantial degree — the cost of land acquisition folded into the C&S plan.

 Amenities/Price Point— VMDO Architects of Charlottesville, part of the Shockey P3 team, is renowned for its bells-and-whistles creativity. Proof positive of its talents is the renovated Handley High School. And its plan for the new John Kerr is similarly imaginative — and unusual. But any way you cut it, the proposal will not fulfill the requirements, in terms of square footage and outdoor amenities, established by the School Board — unless, as we see it, the School Board opts to demolish the existing John Kerr.

What’s more, not only is the three-story design anachronistic, at best, for an elementary school, but the plan, typical of an unsolicited PPEA proposal, also remains a work-in-progress. The School Board has yet to receive a firm price on what this school will cost.

By contrast, there are no such “unknowns” with the C&S project. The city knows what it’s getting, and knows what it’s going to pay. Every cost related to construction — even that of land acquisition, contrary to oft-stated popular belief — is folded into a Guaranteed Maximum Price of $19.898 million. And all the criteria put forth by the School Board are accounted for.

 Road Construction — This — the suggestion that proffers agreed to in a 2005 rezoning of property composing the C&S site will not be met — is perhaps the biggest misconception of all. Simply stated, the C&S proposal unequivocally reiterates the commitment of the current owners of the Ridgefield Orchard property to extend Meadow Branch. It is written into the C&S contract to buy the land.

Conversely, when it comes to the requisite extension of Nester Drive, on which the doability — nay, integrity — of the Jefferson plan rests, no such certainty exists. The city may know the estimated cost of the combined road-and-sewer project ($1.699 million), but has yet to lock down — at least for public consumption — a purchase price for the right-of-way from the landowner/future developer sure to benefit from the project. We must assume “fair market value” is central to these negotiations.

 Utilities — Because C&S envisions bringing water and sewer to the school from Amherst Street, the initial conjecture was that a main-line break along that artery would leave the facility without water. Not so, Mr. Conaboy says. An additional tie-in has been identified on Merrimans Lane.

Misconceptions reversed?