May County Board Meeting: Stratford School Driveway, Blue Ribbon Panel, CIP, And More

We completed our regular May County Board meetings on Tuesday. There was a lot to cover, and here are some of the highlights:

New Stratford Middle School
We heard over four hours of public, staff, commission, and expert testimony about whether the Board should permit a new driveway onto Old Dominion Drive at the Stratford site. This was an unusual hearing because APS has not yet come with a permit application, but I know from my time on School Board that changes at that late stage can add costs and delays in getting much needed classroom space. There were good arguments both for and against, and I was pleased to join with three of my colleagues in giving our “head nod” vote to let our Schools know that they should go ahead with their preferred design option, including the driveway.

Blue Ribbon Panel
Last month, the Board unanimously approved a charge for a Blue Ribbon panel  to look into a process for developing an overall strategic plan, a process that will include considerable public input. The Board had been discussing this idea among ourselves for a month or so before the April meeting, and I think that we were fairly comfortable with it by then, even as we were working right up to that meeting to polish the language in the charge. As a result, we neglected our commitment to share the draft with the public in advance of the meeting, which led to a fair amount of confusion in the community about exactly what the Blue Ribbon Panel is designed to do.

Therefore, the Board unanimously decided to hold off on appointing the members of the panel until our July meeting and to use the extra time to allow the community more time to ask questions about and to weigh in on the charge. The motion passed included some specific questions for the community. These questions are open-ended, but structured, because it is very important to your Board members that we receive feedback that we can apply to making the panel and its work product better. I encourage you to watch our discussion of this topic (discussion begins at about the 34-minute mark and runs for approximately 16 minutes).

Capital Improvement Plan
The County Manager presented his proposed 2017-26 Capital Improvement Plan: a $2.8 billion investment program covering facilities, parks, technology, infrastructure, maintenance, and more. You can read the presentation online, attend our work sessions, or watch them online. Highlights include the draft Transit Development Plan, which will expand and improve our ART bus fleet, provide a one seat ride from the west end of Columbia Pike to Crystal City, and move to premium bus features like signal prioritization and level boarding.  Also, we will collaborate with the School Board on a bond referendum to finance school capital projects including a County-School joint project to build underground parking at the new elementary school at Thomas Jefferson, so that we can add about an acre of green space on top.

It was a busy pair of May meetings, with many CIP work sessions to follow. Of course, the primary election is on June 14th, so there’s lots going on with my campaign every day. Be sure to check out my website for campaign updates.

May, 19, 2016