By TC Guest
A Zoning Ordinance Amendment (ZOAM) being considered by Loudoun Supervisors will allow public Schools By Right, County-wide. Action Item #13 is on the agenda for this week’s June 5 BOS meeting and posted at the County’s website: www.loudoun.gov/schoolsbyright. If you don’t know anything about what is about to happen, then it shows that transparency in Loudoun government continues to be a serious problem!
Backup for Action Item #13 shows draft language was sent out for Referrals to many officials in the Planning Dept, Parks and Rec, Loudoun Public Schools, Economic Development Commission, Transportation, etc. They were given months to formulate their comments and many of those recommendations were indeed incorporated in the currently proposed ZOAM language. Conversely when it came to getting public comment, the public was marginally informed of a single opportunity (on May 29) which lasted from 6-6:30pm. No Supervisors attended. The public meeting was scheduled less than one week before the Supervisors vote on whether to advance the Item. With this timing, staff couldn’t possibly have had sufficient time to reasonably evaluate, much less incorporate, any citizen recommendations in the proposed ZOAM, which was posted on May 31 for next week’s meeting on June 5. The ZOAM concept for Schools By Right has merit, but citizens just want a sincere invitation to sit at the input table!
Because of the huge rush to advance the Action Item, one excellent recommendation could not be incorporated in the proposed ZOAM. That being a revised Performance Standard requiring Schools By Right be served by public utilities. After all, if direct access to a paved road is required (see Performance Standard I (1), why not also require schools be served by public utilities? The vast majority of public schools are on public water/sewer, and even the latest schools built in western Loudoun (Culbert ES and Woodgrove HS) are served by public utilities. But if a great site comes along and it can’t be served by public utilities, then a Special Exception permit can always be issued. Because the urgency for schools currently exists in the central/eastern portions of the County, where water/sewer lines already exist, a Performance Standard for schools on public utilities should be no problem. Right? Further, such a Performance Standard would comply with the County’s Comprehensive Plan which calls for schools to be sited in existing communities. No matter your side, east or west, few can argue that after all is said and done, Loudoun County Public Schools building multi-million dollar well fields and wastewater treatment plants (and roads) is probably not be the best bang for limited education bucks.