At last breaking a logjam of indecisive votes by the School Board and City Council, the Falls Church School Board provided a 4-2 majority Tuesday night to the motion to end the effort at developing the 36-acre high school and middle school campus site with a complicated and frustrating so-called “public private educational development” process. The process had two bidders competing to develop a plan that include a new or renovated high school and 10 acres of commercial development by the site located next to the West Falls Church Metro station.
Last week, the School Board was unable to make such a decision with a 3-3 tie vote, and then last night the City Council voted 4-3 to delay making a final decision for two more weeks. In Tuesday’s final vote, the winning majority was provided by School Board member Michael Ankuma, who cast his lot with the three who’d voted the week before for terminating the current process, Erin Gill, Phil Reitinger and Lawrence Webb.
According to News-Press sources, the regional commercial development community has not wasted any time perking up to Tuesday’s move, eager to focus on how to turn the 10 undeveloped acres by the West Falls Church Metro into a windfall for the City, its schools and, of course, themselves. Eager to jump in with plans for a “highest and best use” of the 10 prime acres, it is not known if some unsolicited proposals will be on the Falls Church City Hall doorstep before the end of this week.
As for the prospect of getting a new or renovated high school built, the School Board is now free to issue a “request for proposal” to those developer interests who specialize in such things, without tying them to the requirement for commercial development, as well. The Public Private process had, since last October, bound the City and its schools to a highly secretive process, since there were two competitive bidders, releasing the process from that restriction will allow the entire Falls Church community to become much more engaged in public discussions on how to proceed with the high school project, and at what price, in a way that will make far more likely the passage of a bond referendum for its development probably not before the end of next year.