Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Background Material on April 17, 2008 School Board Item

Here is the background information provided to the Charlottesville School Board regarding transfer of nine acres of land to VDOT for construction of the Meadow Creek Parkway. The meeting starts at 6:00 pm at the Booker T. Reaves Media Center in Charlottesville High School and this item is early in the agenda following comments from members of the community and board member comments. The background material below identifies the safety issue and loss of recreation/athletic fields but doesn't address any of the health, environmental, and natural resource impacts of reprogramming this land for highway use. I also find it interesting that there is no statement as to the value of loss to the school from this request, or any statement of what benefit to the community will be gained (if any) in return for the undefined loss of use this property transfer would cause.

As decision leaders for both the city school division and our community as a whole, I encourage the school board members to identify the costs and benefits to the school division and our community for the alternative choices they have relating to the 9-acre parcel of land. As elected officials, our school board members need to consider actively the concerns of the public in their actions. The agenda packet states "the Superintendent recommends the Board deliberate and take action on the resolution." I couldn't locate the text of the proposed resolution. But, I do hope you will contact the school board members and encourage them to indicate clearly why they believe their ultimate action - to approve or deny - is in the best interest of the schools and our community.

08-106: Information Items:
A. Meadowcreek Parkway Resolution - Mr. James Henderson presented this information item to the Board. The Virginia Department of Education contacted the City of Charlottesville requesting a donation of the right of way and easements necessary for construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway. The property involved is approximately 9 acres which is titled to the City of Charlottesville but utilized by Charlottesville High School for junior varsity girls’ softball practice. Mr. Spencer DeJarnette, representative from VDOT, was present to give an overview of the project which included the exact location and design of the right of way and easements needed for the parkway. The Board had received a packet from VDOT which contained a copy of the resolution, VDOT’s property owners manual, plan sheets and copy of the request to the city to convey the easements to VDOT, and accompanying legal documents. Mr. DeJarnette reviewed the easement information with the Board. The road project is slated for advertisement this summer. Relocation of the utilities at the CATEC end has started. VDOT expects if they obtain all the right of ways necessary by the summer, they will go to ad in August or September and construction of the roadway should begin in January or February of 2009. Mr. DeJarnette said he understood this was a working meeting and he and Mr. Rome would be glad to attend the Board meeting on April 17th to answer any additional questions Board Members might have prior to approving the resolution.

Mr. Michie asked Craig Brown, City Attorney, to explain the legal part of the ownership. Mr. Brown explained that the property was purchased in 1984 for the purpose of use by the schools. For a number of years after the school was built, the outdoor recreational facilities at the old Lane High School were still being used which necessitated the acquisition of the property across the street. The property is titled to the City of Charlottesville and was never deeded to the school division. Given that it was acquired for use by the school and historically been used for that purpose, from a public perception it is seen as a part of the Charlottesville High School campus. It was Mr. Brown’s opinion and in consultation with the School Board’s legal counsel, Patrick Lacy, that this was fairly characterized as school property. Under Virginia Law, they agreed this Board’s consent was necessary before the easement could be conveyed. Mr. Michie asked if the School Board had any identifiable interest in the property. Mr. Brown said none of record.

After Board discussion and questions, the consensus of the Board was there should be conditions on the resolution which would include making sure there is assured pedestrian access either over or under the new parkway, that the intersection is extremely safe for pedestrian crossing and the timing with the city end of the road is extremely critical. Mr. DeJarnette said he would gather information on all three of those points as quickly as possible and get the answers back to Mrs. Atkins and Mr. Henderson. He also told the Board he would have the planners and designers of the project come to the next meeting if that would be helpful.

Graphic Source: the Charlottesville City Schools logo from their website.

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