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Fairfax Planners Agree to Postpone Action on Mt. Daniel to Nov. 4

SUPERINTENDENT OF Falls Church City Schools, Dr. Toni Jones announced that she is seeking a postponement of action by the Fairfax County Planning Commission on the plan to invest $15.5 million on renovation and expansion of Mt. Daniel Elementary School, located three blocks outside City limits in Fairfax County. (Photo: News-Press)
SUPERINTENDENT OF Falls Church City Schools, Dr. Toni Jones announced that she is seeking a postponement of action by the Fairfax County Planning Commission on the plan to invest $15.5 million on renovation and expansion of Mt. Daniel Elementary School, located three blocks outside City limits in Fairfax County. (Photo: News-Press)

UPDATE: The Fairfax County Planning Commission agreed Thursday night to the request from the Falls Church City Schools to postpone action on the F.C. Renovation and expansion of the Mt. Daniel School until November 4, two days after this fall’s election.

Dr. Toni Jones, superintendent of the Falls Church City Public Schools, announced Wednesday that at the Fairfax County Planning Commission meeting set for tonight, the City Schools will seek a postponement by the Planners of action on the schools’ request for approval of expansion and renovation plans for Mt. Daniel Elementary School.

Dr. Jones’ complete statement follows:

“On Thursday evening Falls Church City Public Schools will be requesting that the Fairfax County Planning Commission defer the vote on the Mount Daniel Elementary expansion project. While we are disappointed to be at this juncture, we understand this extension is necessary and will allow for additional information to be submitted to the Planning Commission in response to questions already received. The additional time will also be needed to answer any questions from the Planning Commission which arise from this additional information.

“Additional time is needed for a professional transportation consultant to review and comment on the current traffic counts and analysis to identify appropriate measures to address the concerns raised at the public hearing regarding access and traffic circulation. Such review could not begin until school was back in session and the typical school-generated traffic resumed. Adequate time also is needed for the construction team to provide responses to Commissioners’ questions and concerns.

“We will continue to keep our community informed as we learn more. Thank you for your patience as we work with the planning commission to address their questions about the project. It is our sincere intent to continue working with our entire community in Falls Church, and our Fairfax neighbors who live in and around Mount Daniel.”

While it will remain with the county’s Planning Commission to grant the request tonight, an added concern to those mentioned by Dr. Jones in her statement has to involve the fall elections.

With the powerful McLean Community Association having come out strongly against the Mt. Daniel plan, it is no secret that anyone crossing that group could pay a dear political price this November. Specifically, it could make things tough for incumbent Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, a Democrat who is facing a strong challenge from Republican Jennifer Chronis, who announced this week that she’s raised $107,000 for her campaign.

Planning Commissioner John Ulfelder represents Dranesville District on his commission and he is an appointee of Foust. He and Foust both have to feel enormous pressure from the McLean Citizens Association that will not be relieved until after the November election at the earliest.

It is not yet known whether that pressure will compel Ulfelder to deny the F.C. Schools’ request for a deferral tonight, and to proceed to a vote tonight.
The intervention of the citizens group against the Mt. Daniel project threw the F.C. Schools’ expectations completely off track in June. Plans to begin construction in June, on the expectation of a smooth approval process, had to be postponed. The fact that the county’s planning staff approved the project led the F.C. Schools to believe it would be smooth, especially given that neighbors to the nine acre site seemed to prefer the expansion to a sale of the property for more residential development.

The McLean Citizens Association’s sudden opposition is based on the notion that the plans are to put too much on the site. The schools’ plan was to expand the school to handle grades 1 and 2 by increasing its capacity from 436 to 792 students.

At least one Falls Church City Councilman indicated this week that if the project were either rejected or deferred longer, he’d begin agitate for a new policy of keeping all new school construction inside the City’s own limits.

But a postponement tonight would not impact the project itself, since no work on it can begin until the conclusion of the current school year in June 2016.

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