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Peter’s Take: Long-Term County Planning Needed Now for Carlin Springs Parcels

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

The Arlington County Board must act now to enable the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission to perform its primary long-term planning role with respect to two large parcels of land on Carlin Springs Road: the Kenmore Middle School site and the Urgent Care site.

JFAC recently has been asked to dedicate some of its attention to helping Arlington Public Schools and the county with a phased facility and site development plan for the Career Center site.

While this is an important short-term assignment, it’s vital that both boards — particularly the County Board — take appropriate actions now to enable JFAC to produce a long-term facilities plan for these two large Carlin Springs parcels.

Long-term planning is vital

The County Board must recognize the need to address more comprehensively the challenges of future growth and development by focusing JFAC’s work primarily on the job of coordinating long-term County and APS facility needs, including APS capacity needs, for the next 15 years.

Unfortunately, over the first nine months of JFAC’s existence, the County and School Boards have kept assigning JFAC a series of short-term facilities planning tasks. The two boards need to cut down on using JFAC for these short-term planning assignments.

The Kenmore and Urgent Care sites are critical

The best currently-available, multi-year APS enrollment projections are in a consultant study prepared last fall. A related joint county-APS study, presented at a joint County Board-School Board meeting this past January, concluded (at p23) that Arlington’s total population aged 0-14 will exceed 40,000 by 2030.

The multi-year projections in this joint study correctly led both APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy and the leadership of JFAC to conclude that Arlington will need yet another new high school up and running no later than 2032.

Resolving where that new high school ought to be located cannot be decided without first determining the highest and best uses for the Kenmore and Urgent Care sites.

At 32.5 acres, the Kenmore Middle School site is by far the largest piece of land currently owned by APS that could become the site for a new high school. If a high school were located there, one option could be to move the middle school to the Urgent Care site.

To enable JFAC to evaluate these options, the County Board needs to lead now on a series of issues, especially issues relating to paralyzing traffic problems which inhibit any further identification for uses at either Kenmore or the Urgent Care property.

For example, the County Board needs to engage now with:

  • Virginia Department of Transportation and the Commonwealth of Virginia, and then set aside funding to improve the intersection between Carlin Springs Road and Route 50
  • Fairfax County regarding additional egress on Arlington County land onto the Arlington County portion of Manchester Street at Route 50
  • APS regarding the creation of a possible new turn lane along Carlin Springs Road to Kenmore
  • APS regarding possible additional turn lanes between Campbell Elementary School and the Nature Center entrance to the current VHC Urgent Care site
  • APS regarding wider pedestrian walks along Carlin Springs Road
  • APS regarding a possible pedestrian overpass on Carlin Springs Road

Conclusion

The County Board needs to take the lead to enable JFAC to do its comprehensive long-term planning job as it relates to both of these large sites on Carlin Springs Road.

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