(Updated at 6:25 p.m.) Arlington County is in desperate need of more land for schools and for county government operations. But a plan to acquire an office park across the street from Washington-Lee High School and use it for school bus parking is meeting with community opposition.
The county is planning to spend $30 million acquiring the Quincy Street Technology Center, also known as the Buck property, a 6.1 acre office park zoned primarily for commercial and light industrial uses. Located adjacent to N. Quincy Street and I-66 in the Virginia Square area, the property also partially borders a residential neighborhood.
In a joint County Board-School Board work session earlier this month, Arlington County staff laid out the case for the moving the Arlington Public Schools school bus operations from the Trades Center near Shirlington to the Buck site.
The Buck property is in a central location, near the school administrative building and has the space to accommodate current APS bus parking needs, unlike the increasingly crowded Trades Center, where growth has exceeded capacity. (Thanks to rising enrollment, APS has added 40 new school buses in the past 5 years.)
The Buck property would at first be used for temporary bus parking, then would be considered for a permanent APS bus parking, operations and dispatch center, with a new vehicle wash and fueling station, according to the staff presentation. Other potential uses of the property include temporary overflow parking for Washington-Lee, police and fire reserve vehicle storage, APS office use and a permanent Office of Emergency Management and Emergency Operations Center facility.
In response, some nearby residents have created a petition against the bus proposal. The petition, entitled “The Buck Stops Here,” has more than 100 signatures.
Here’s what the petition says:
Again, Arlington County is barreling ahead with a project impacting a neighborhood without consulting nearby residents. This is a disturbing trend that demands a strong voice from Arlington citizens.
The county is proceeding with a plan to purchase the Buck tract on N. Quincy Street for $30 million (more than $6 million over the 2016 tax assessment) and redevelop the property for, no doubt, tens of millions more – all for a bus parking lot and repair facility.
We do not object to the redevelopment of this ideally-located tract but the placement of an industrial site directly adjoining an existing residential neighborhood is unprecedented in Arlington and bodes ominously for other neighborhoods.
They have proceeded without consulting the adjacent neighborhood and have kept Arlington citizens at-large in the dark about their planning. We have repeatedly asked for a seat in their discussions but have been denied at every turn.
It’s time for Arlington citizens to demand a return to the “Arlington Way” and stop the Buck tract before your neighborhood is next.
The petition, we’re told, is also “‘trending’ across nine Arlington neighborhoods” via Nextdoor, an online social network.
“This is sadly reminiscent of the recent instances of Arlington citizens rising up against the planning without consultation with the [H-B Woodlawn] relocation, the TJ parking lot, the Lee Hwy firehouse, and plopping a temporary firehouse on the green grass of Rhodeside Green Park, along with a growing number of other attempts at action without consulting neighborhoods,” Dennis Whitehead, a resident who lives near the Buck site, told ARLnow.com.
Despite the insistence that the county is “barreling ahead” with the project, the county’s acquisition of the Buck property may not close for another year, and the county says it’s committed to a community process prior to determining its permanent uses for the property.
The proposal may be discussed tonight (Tuesday) at a meeting in Courthouse. The public meeting, intended to review community input regarding a new joint county-schools facilities advisory committee that’s being planned, is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Navy League Building (2300 Wilson Blvd).
That committee, which will follow up on the Community Facilities Study that wrapped up around this time last year (but is still the subject of meetings), will also be considering uses for other county-owned or potentially county-owned properties, including:
- A 11.5 acre Virginia Hospital Center property along S. Carlin Springs Road, which could potentially be used for police and fire vehicle logistics, a new police impound lot, material staging and for the Office of Emergency Management/Emergency Operations Center.
- County-owned land at the intersection of 26th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive, across from Marymount University, which currently includes a park, a mulch pile and a salt dome. The park will be preserved but the county wants to replace the aging salt dome and use some of the land for snow clearing operations and material storage.
- Madison Community Center, though no specific additional uses were presented.
- Clarendon House, a vacant former rehabilitation center at the intersection of N. Irving Street and 10th Street N.
Another joint County Board-School Board meeting, on recommendations from the Community Facilities Study, is planned for Nov. 1 at 6 p.m.