Friday, April 18, 2008

Charlottesville School Board Tables Easement Decision

The Charlottesville School Board met on April 17, 2008. After about 90 minutes of presentations, discussion, and questions to which only some answers were available from VDOT, Albemarle County, and the City staff the board voted 4-2 to table the issue until the next school board meeting. Apparently the school board only got involved in this issue - "A Resolution of the Charlottesville City School Board Consenting to the Conveyance of Certain Real Property Interests by the City of Charlottesville to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the Construction of the Meadow Creek Parkway" - about three weeks ago. Although this property was purchased for school division use in 1982, and use of this property for a roadway has been considered in some form since well before that date, this is a new item on the school board's agenda. A work session included discussion of this issue occurred on April 3, 2008.

Kathleen Galvin lead the questioning of VDOT, county and city staff asking how this project will benefit the school, and about the safety issues associated with the parkway design and plans for the at-grade intersection where the proposed Meadow Creek Parkway and McIntire Road Extended projects meet at Melbourne Road. Galvin said she made a list of the 'pros' and 'cons' associated with this project, but the discussion clearly was dominated by exploring the 'cons'. I am curious what she had listed in the 'pro' column. My own personal listing of benefits to the school division from this project is void. Other board members also expressed concerns about safety issues and limitation on access to the natural area blocked from both Charlottesville High School and CATEC by the proposed roadway.

Kathleen Galvin lived up to her campaign slogan in the November 2007 election. She clearly did her homework on this issue. The issues she raised included troubling safety concerns and loss of needed athletic fields by the high school and appear to have convinced four of the six members who will be voting on a resolution (Juandiego Wade recused himself from this matter due to his being a transportation planning staff member employed by Albemarle County and involved in the parkway project in that capacity). The school board and city council have a luncheon meeting today (April 18 - 12:00 at city hall basement conference room) and I expect this resolution and its ramifications will be a topic of discussion. This meeting is open to the public. I plan to attend and see if any positive features of this proposal emerge.

This proposed resolution is what I consider to be a lose-lose situation - unfortunately if city councilors and school board members all don't do their homework it just might be approved. I will continue to encourage all of our elected officials to identify what benefits - if any - this project provides, and weigh the environmental, safety, athletic, educational and other costs against those benefits to make whatever decision is best for the school division and our community at large. These are the tough decisions we elect our local officials to make. I hope the board doesn't default to what appears to be the lose-lose decision as the material presented to the school board at yesterday's board meeting suggests to me.

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