Thursday, June 26, 2008

Joint Meeting Cancelled

The meeting between the HALRB and the Planning Commission set for tonight has been cancelled. It was to have covered the plans for redevelopment of the N. Glebe Road at N. Pershing Drive intersection. No further date has been set.

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Letter: Welcome Alcides and Sylvia

Dear Alcides and Sylvia,

We heard that you are interested in opening a new market at Glebe and Pershing Streets. As your potential new neighbors, we wish you success in your endeavor and we look forward to shopping in the new store.

Ken and Yoko Moskowitz
Ashton Heights

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Business Looking to Lease Space for Buckingham Grocery Store

A Prince William County company hopes to open a grocery store inside one of the proposed buildings of a redeveloped Buckingham Shopping Center. Pacific General Contractors, LLC, owned by Alcides Ventura and his brother Freddy, has met with county staff and has just finished a business plan for a general grocery, said Sylvia Samayoa, a manager in the company.

Sylvia Samayoa, left, and Alcides Ventura hope to open a grocery store in the building planned to replace the CVS. (Click to enlarge the image.)

“We really want to work in that community,” Ms. Samayoa said.

Pacific General owns a handful of small businesses including Ventura Grocery on Cockrell Road in Manassas. Ms. Samayoa described that store as a general grocery with a focus on Latino foods. Their hope is to open a similar store in the building that is planned to replace the CVS.

“We want to open another one. I believe it’s time,” Alcides Ventura said. Prince William County’s economy has been hit hard by the national housing crisis and a county-wide crackdown on illegal immigration, and while many restaurants and other stores have gone out of business, the Ventura Grocery is still around. “So we’re doing pretty good in comparison to other businesses in that area,” Mr. Alcides said. He said that anyone can open a store, but maintaining it is the hard part.

The store he envisions would cover about 5,000 square feet. Not only would he sell general groceries, especially fresh meats and traditional Latino foods, he also thinks a coffee shop and a cafeteria that sells prepackaged foods could work in that space. He and Ms. Samayoa said they want to reflect what the neighborhood needs and are willing to go into the community to find out what people want. One of his businesses is as a general contractor, and to save money, he is hoping to build the inside of the space himself to his specifications.

Karen Vasquez, the public relations manager for Arlington Economic Development, said the county is trying to promote grocery stores in neighborhoods.

A business that is both locally owned and a grocery “could have piqued board members’ interests,” Ms. Vasquez said.

At the recent ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new streetscape at the intersection, County Board Chairman Walter Tejada said he hoped the Glebe Market would be around for a long time, calling it a “landmark” that is “loved and treasured” in Buckingham. That tends to depend on who you ask. Whether the Glebe Market should be replaced with a similar grocery or something more upscale was one of the more contentious discussions at a recent community forum discussing the redevelopment. Mr. Alcides said he has met with Mr. Tejada regarding the store.

Under the proposed redevelopment, the three buildings west of N. Glebe Road at N. Pershing Drive—the CVS, Glebe Market and El Paso Café buildings—would be torn down and replaced by two large, mixed-use buildings. All but one of the businesses in the current buildings would move into the new space on the northwest corner, the site of the current Glebe Market.

The Glebe Market itself will not return as owner Sam Chon plans to retire. A large question has been what type of grocery store would replace the Glebe Market, a market that serves much of the Latino population of the neighborhood.

Jennie Gordon, a retail development specialist at Arlington Economic Development, said that after losing Glebe Market “we want to make sure something goes in there.”

“We’ve offered to help them, Georgetown Strategic Capital, with outreach,” she said. “They haven’t taken us up on that.” She said Georgetown Strategic might have other outside help and just does not need the county’s input. “If they wanted us to help with outreach, then we would go out a little more aggressively.”

Mr. Alcides heard of the possible space for the store from some of his general contracting clients in the area. He also heard of the space from a friend who once owned a grocery in Alexandria and because he participated in a home expo recently, he said.

For her part, Ms. Samayoa said that county should use Day Labor sites to help men waiting to work at the corner of N. Glebe and N. Pershing.

She said she understood why people would be frightened of men just standing around on the corner if you were not sure what they were doing. “I would be frightened, too,” she said.

Tara Miles of Arlington Economic Development said that Pacific General is the only company she knows of that is trying to lease grocery space in the proposed new building. Ms. Miles said the BizLaunch office she directs is helping that company as it would any other that asked for assistance and that the county is not encouraging one business over another. Her office would be happy to help another looking to compete for the Buckingham Center space.

Her office helps entrepreneurs with technical assistance for acquiring leased space or developing strategic and marketing plans.

“We want to be able to ensure that businesses will have the right tools,” she said, adding later, “My concern…is making sure that everybody has the capacity to compete.”

“They [Pacific General] are actually working on their business plan, which is the best thing to do, to start now,” even though the space will not be ready for a long time, she said. Paperwork submitted to the county from Georgetown Strategic sets construction from May 2009 to May 2010.

Winning the lease for Mr. Alcides: “That’s going to be the number one priority.”

Everyone spoken to said the process is still very early on and nothing is settled. Georgetown Strategic could not be reached for comment.

Related stories…
  • Buckingham Shopping Center Developer Applies for Certificate of Appropriateness This story covers the planned redevelopment and has links to many other stories in this series.

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  • Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    HeraldTrib Today: June 11, 2008

    Mea culpa…

    I was in a hurry last week to get my post finished and head off on hiatus. That’s when I inadvertently opened a can of worms.

    My intention was to let readers know that the Gates of Ballston, owned by AHC, Inc., planned to open their new community center this summer, and that I would be writing a story about it in the fall when I return from hiatus.

    A month or more ago, I had spoken to some people at the current Buckingham Community Outreach Center housed in two connected apartments at the Gates. They were concerned about the move into the new space.

    I should have stopped there. Instead I wrote more detail, saying that the community outreach program was going to lose about 1,500 square feet in the move.

    I was wrong.

    Although Connie Freeman (I called her “Connie Sherman” last week—a bad week), as the director of the community outreach center, is concerned about changes in space and use of the space, she cannot remember ever talking to me about square footage. I was running off memory, rather than notes.

    I’ll admit it was unprofessional. I may be a blog, but I do have standards that I attempt to maintain.

    So I’m going to apologize for that stupidity, and then move on.

    This is the plan for my coverage of the center:

    1: I posted the letter from AHC, Inc., below. It is their response to my column last week.

    2: Over the summer, I will find some time to run back through all my notes on this—both the notes from people in the Buckingham Community Outreach Center and the people, including Catherine Bucknam from AHC Inc., who gave me a tour of the facility last February.

    3: I will be back in the fall to talk to AHC, Connie Freeman, Catherine Bucknam and others to find out how the new space is working. I will write more then.

    Gate’s Wins Regional Award…

    AHC Inc., the largest nonprofit developer and owner of affordable housing in Northern Virginia, has won the 2008 "Best Project Virginia" award for the Gates of Ballston, a 464-unit affordable apartment complex in Arlington, VA, that was built in the late 1930s. The award, presented by the Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND), was announced at HAND's annual meeting in early June, a press release from AHC, Inc. said.

    I’m going on hiatus now…

    All week I knew I would have to run my apology and the letter from AHC, Inc., so I thought I would look to a little more news. Check out the stories below.

    One of them mentions a sewage spill on June 4 affecting Lubber Run. The water is now clean, said the county’s Shannon Whalen McDaniel, since the rain flushed it out.

    The press release told people and animals to stay out of the water until further notice. I saw only one yellowish flyer on a post at one Lubber Run entrance.

    I very well could have missed others at the entrances, but I can’t help but think a couple notices nearer the water would have helped in this case. Flyers on bridge railings and that sort of thing might have garnered more attention.

    Still, it’s clean now, so consider this “further notice.”

    I updated the photos--got the scanner working--on the N. Glebe Road at N. Pershing Drive intersection below. I updated the post with a new helpful illustration; the story itself is the same.

    Look for me at Steve Songs (Lubber Run Amphitheatre this SATURDAY--I wrote the wrong day when I first posted).

    See you in the fall…

    The Week’s Headlines…
    As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: --Steve Thurston).

    Today's Headlines:

  • Letter: Gates' Community Center Has Space (AHC Inc.'s repsonse to my HeraldTrib Today column of June 4.)
  • NCAC Considers Intersection Funding (The intersection of N. Henderson Road at N. Thomas Street.)

  • Headlines from Earlier in the Week:

  • Bham Center Developer Applies for COA (UPDATE: a photo illustration has been added since the original post last Friday).
  • Stay Out of Lubber Run Stream, County Says (UPDATE:The water is safe once again.)
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    Letter: Gates' Community Center Has Space

    To the editor:

    We were surprised and disappointed to read in last week’s blog that some members of the Buckingham community still have concerns about the space for Arlington County’s Community Outreach Program in the new Gates of Ballston Community Center. AHC Inc., the owner and manager of the Gates of Ballston, collaborated with senior County staff and community volunteers to design spaces and programs that will meet the needs of the Buckingham community. The result is a beautiful, functional community center with approximately 1,600 square feet of space for the Community Outreach Program, 1,500 square feet of space for AHC’s Resident Services program, and another 2,200 square feet of space that can be reserved by residents, the Community Outreach Program, or AHC for special programs.

    The Community Outreach space includes two classrooms, a computer classroom, an office, and a meeting room. The remaining space in the new building includes the leasing and property management offices, four handicapped-accessible bathrooms, and an office for the Buckingham and Gates Tenant Association (BUGATA).

    AHC has always supported the work of the Community Outreach Program and we have worked hard to accommodate their needs since we bought The Gates in 2002. The two apartments currently occupied by Community Outreach were always intended as temporary space while the Gates underwent an extensive renovation and the new community center was built. AHC will return these apartments to their original purpose – rental housing – once the Community Outreach Program moves to the new community center.

    We are very excited about the new Gates Community Center and look forward to celebrating its opening with the Buckingham community later this summer. We truly believe the new center is going to be a great asset to the community.


    Catherine Bucknam
    Director of Community Relations
    AHC Inc.

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    NCAC Considers Intersection Funding Tomorrow

    Redevelopment of a Buckingham intersection is up for funding tomorrow. The N. Thomas Street at N. Henderson Road intersection is the fourth of 24 projects throughout the county that the Neighborhood Advisory Conservation Committee will consider at its meeting tomorrow night.

    By the end of a meeting in March, a copy of this drawing was covered in notes for minor changes to drainage, street light and bus stop placement. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    The $123,000 project is likely to get funded as it is Buckingham’s first time to ask for funding through this source, and it is the top priority in the Buckingham Neighborhood Conservation Plan. The project has 65 “points,” (a scale used to rank projects). No other project has more than 65 points.

    Patrick Hope, the Buckingham Community Civic Association president, has said in the past and reiterated in an email, that the project has a very slim chance of failure.

    If funded, the project should be completed in about a year, said county planner Dan Reinhard, at a meeting in March.

    Related stories and sites…
  • Pedestrian Safety and Visibility Are Topics of Meeting
  • BCCA Neighborhood Conservation Plan
  • NCAC Projects 2008

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  • Friday, June 06, 2008

    Bham Center Developer Applies for Certificate of Appropriatness

    An important June 26 meeting will bring together both the HALRB and the Planning Commission to look at the planned development. This post has been updated to change the meeting date to the correct date, which is now shown. --ST

    The proposed buildings at the intersection of N. Glebe Road and N. Pershing Drive look too “industrial” and too “warehouse” said Design Review Committee members at their meeting Wednesday night.

    “The warehouse loft aspect just doesn’t feel right…for this area,” said DRC member Charles Craig. DRC members did not like the metal facing used on parts of the building, especially on the top, fourth, floor. The "moderne" styling gives the building a factory look.

    The scanner is up and running, so the image, with some explanation, is now included. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    They also were not in love with drive through prescription window that the CVS would like to have in the new building, but they could live with it if it were nicely done. Also, they want a second entrance to the CVS.

    According to architect Scott Matties, CVS does not want a second entrance for security reasons. DRC members and county staff have said that CVS has multiple entrances elsewhere in more urban environments. Plus, making the building more handicapped accessible might require another entrance. One DRC member asked why the people in a low- to moderate-income neighborhood should have a lesser store than similar ones elsewhere.

    The argument was best parsed as: if they really want that prescription window, they might think a little more about putting in a second entrance.

    The three members of the DRC and the two county staffers, overall, did like some of the changes, including a “sunken” CVS.

    N. Pershing slopes downward about three feet from N. Glebe to the El Paso Café. In order to get a little more height in the building, the latest drawing shows that the developer would dig down those three feet near the intersection. The sidewalk at the intersection would be street level, and people would take steps or a ramp down to the CVS entrance.

    The look mimics an amphitheatre. The entrance to CVS (imagine it as the stage) sits on the corner of the building. The ramp is flat in front of the door and slopes up from there, hugging two sides of the building.

    The steps look a bit like four rows of bleacher seats in front of the stage. They separate the higher sidewalk from the lower ramp. As the ramp rises to meet the sidewalk, the steps taper off one-by-one.

    The developer’s idea for the project is to raze the Glebe Market and El Paso Café buildings, replacing them with a four-storey mixed use of retail on the ground floor, and three storeys of apartments above. The CVS, El Paso Café, Woofs Dog Training, and Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits would occupy the space where the Glebe Market and El Paso buildings are. A similar building would occupy the space where the CVS now stands. The Glebe Market is the only business not expected to return in any of the new space. Only cosmetic changes will be made on the east side (the post office side) of N. Glebe.

    Georgetown Strategic Capital, the developer of the building, applied for a Certificate of Appropriateness on May 21

    On May 9, they applied for a Use Permit as a “Unified Commercial/Mixed Use Development,” what is known as a UCMUD and allows zoning to combine residential and commercial spaces.

    They must apply for the COA because the shopping center at that intersection is a county-protected historial location. The COA basically asks the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board to look at the buildings and other accoutrements (e.g. park benches) and make sure that the new construction is appropriate for the surrounding neighborhood.

    Receiving the COA is expected to be a months-long process. In the filing papers, Georgetown Strategic has listed May 2009 through May 2010 as the potential dates of construction.

    Parking may prove to be an issue. As part of the UCMUD use permit, the developer asks that the county allow one space of parking per 580 square feet of retail space instead of the zoned one space per 250 feet. As well, they are asking that the portion of required residential parking that is traditionally used for guest parking be shared between retail and residential guests.

    “We’re not asking for anything that doesn’t exist in the county elsewhere,” Mr. Matties said in an interview after the DRC meeting. “It’s used in Cherrydale and other areas.”

    Next up in the COA process: Georgetown Strategic brings their ideas to a joint meeting of the full County Planning Commission and Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (the DRC is a subcommittee of that board), June 26.

    Related stories on the redevelopment…
  • Community Hits Hot Topics Civilly (April 2008)
  • All Is Quiet at HALRB Meeting (January 2008)
  • HALRB: Envisioned Buildings "Too Big" (December 2007)
  • DRC To Discuss Redevelopment (September 2007)
  • Company Exploring Glebe/Pershing Redevelopment (July 2007)

  • Related stories on Glebe Market…
  • Tejada Comes Down Fully in Favor of Glebe Market (May 2008)
  • Will Sam Chon Retire? No one is talking...anymore. (January 2008)

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  • Stay Out of Lubber Run Stream, Says County

    A sewage spill upstream, on N. Edison Street, is the culprit. Read the full release here.


    Wednesday, June 04, 2008

    HeraldTrib Today: June 4, 2008

    Summer hiatus…

    I’m not sure how I feel as I go on hiatus after I post a story about the Design Review Committee meeting tonight.

    Part of the mixed emotion is that I know I go back to teaching at Montgomery College in Rockville in the fall, and I have yet to do all I want to do with this website. I had a full school year to get stuff done, how much time did I need? However much I wanted, it wasn't enough.

    Despite wanting to continue for another month or more, I still must write a final report on the year-long project around which this web site was based, and I must get my syllabi ready. I’m still reading one of my adopted texts. I just don’t have the time for it all, especially since the kids are loosed on the world in just a couple more weeks—then look out!

    On top of that, I have notes and ideas for stories that are only half done—to those people who are wondering where the stories about them are, I will get to them late summer or early fall.

    On top of the on top of all that, the walls of my house look terrible. I really must paint. I will be paying attention to the doings of Buckingham, but I don’t know how much I’ll be reporting until the fall draws me back. Enough complaining of lost time, already. I'll see you in the fall.

    A couple summer stories…

    I took a wheelchair ride last month, and I have yet to put all the notes and recordings together into a decent story. That will come either over the summer, or early in the fall. Sorry, Deb, for the delay (stupid flooded basement).

    Another is about the new Buckingham Community Center, the building on the Gates of Ballston property near N. Glebe at N. Henderson Road. I do not know if the discussions about it would rise to “conflict,” but some of the people who use the current space—a pair of connected two-bedroom apartments on N. Henderson Road—are bothered by the fact that the space they will have in the new building is 1,500 square feet less than what they currently have.

    The fireplace in the main room under construction in February. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Also, the space has fewer offices for private discussions. Connie Sherman, the director of the center, worries about what might happen to people who need to have personal conversations such as those involving AIDS or spousal abuse.

    AHC Inc., which owns and is building the center, has made a space they feel is large enough. It has a huge room for community events, a computer classroom, a day care center, offices for the tenants association and for the leasing and management office.

    County Board Chair Walter Tejada said there are limited resources to go around, and people will have to make due with what is available.

    “Once you get used to something, it’s hard to let go,” he said in a recent interview.

    I had planned on putting out a story about this before the center’s opening in July, but it looks like now, I’ll be asking people how it’s going.

    Design Review Committee meeting tonight…

    I will be a little late to the DRC meeting tonight, but that should be OK as the Buckingham Shopping Center (the intersection of N. Glebe at N. Pershing Drive) is the fourth item on the group’s agenda.

    Tonight Georgetown Strategic Capital will move a little closer to razing the Glebe Market and CVS buildings and replacing them with two huge, mixed-use buildings, retail on the ground floor, and three floors of market-rate apartments above.

    This redevelopment of the corner does not go before the Site Plan Review Committee Rebeccah Ballo in the county’s historic preservation office told me because Georgetown Strategic is not asking for a zoning or density changes. It will go before the Planning Commission and, as the DRC is part of the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board, that board has been and will be involved, too.

    Barrett’s new field is coming…

    County staff confirmed that the budget OKed last month has money in it to repair Barrett Elementary School's playing field. Although staffers originally said the project might get under way in the spring, it’s looking more like summer, but none I spoke with could give me a date. When we spoke last week, the project had not yet been bid.

    Say Hello to Bucky…or Lubby!

    The erstwhile beaver of Lubber Run still has no clear name, as based upon the survey a handful of you took last week. “Bucky” and “Lubby” tied, with three (!), votes each. “Big Tooth” received no votes.

    Unlike Hilary Clinton, I can make THE decision, and say, “enough’s enough,” especially since I’ve seen neither hide nor hair Bucky Lubby since Mother’s Day. Call the beaver what you will, it's over.

    Fuzzy’s Robin…

    My next-door neighbor, Scott Zoeller, called me to the mat last week when I didn’t run his picture and that of the baby robin nesting in the Norwegian blue spruce outside his townhouse. It was a cute little bugger, and has since flown the coop.

    Now, Fuzzy, you can say that you are, as my son Harry says, “just a little bit famous.” Are we cool?

    The Week’s Headlines…
    As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: --Steve Thurston).

    Today's Headlines:

  • Minigolf It Is
  • Letter: Redevelopment Means Retail Upscales
  • Police Notes for Buckingham June 4, 2008

  • Headlines from Earlier in the Week:

  • Plaintiffs in School Board Lawsuit Will "Wait and See." (This is a continuation of what has become the saga of the elementary schools overcrowding.)
  • Letter: "Fantastic" Video Reminds Writer of Visits
  • Letter: Why Not My Organic Market?
  • Letter: Nice Picture Show
  • Yearling Buck Stops in Arlington Oaks
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    Minigolf It Is

    Minigolf remains the county’s choice for developing the greenspace outside the Ballston Commons Mall parking lot at the corner of N. Glebe Road at N. Randolph Street.

    Some people in Buckingham felt the county had chosen the use of the property without the proper input from all affected parties, such as Buckingham residents. Therefore, meetings were held between the Buckingham Community Civic Association and county staff earlier this year, but no changes were made.

    “We are still proceeding with our initial plans to construct a miniature golf course. We’re still on that path,” said Scott McPartlin of the county’s Department of Recreation and Cultural Resources. In the interview early last month, he noted as he has many times, that he and his staff spoke with other civic associations and affected groups and received very positive feedback.

    “We listened to their [the Buckingham residents’] opinion, but it did not change the direction of the project,” Mr. McPartlin said. He is the county's lead planner on this project.

    The county is preparing a very detailed Request For Qualifications which will seek out developers who want to partner with the county to make the 0.45 acre space a “world-class” minigolf course, Mr. McPartlin said. The RFQ should be ready this summer. Development of the space is still some time away.

    The green outline shows the location of the greenspace planned for minigolf.

    Related stories and sites…
  • Letter: Writer Decides FOR Minigolf (Sept. 21, 2007)
  • Minigolf Plans Progressing
  • The county's initial "request for interest" regarding the project (Sept. 2007)
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    Letter: Development Means Retail Upscales


    1. Development = Upscaling

    This seems self-evident, but a lot of people have trouble pulling the thread on the economics of re-development. Sam Chon bought Glebe Market for $1 (or whatever) and is selling it for $100. The buyer has to do something that will cover the purchase and continue to make a profit. So he seeks greater density (height) and charges new tenant stores more,which soon squeezes out Mom and Pop stores in favor of the chains who can afford the rent. This happens everywhere - you find M+Ps in older and low-rise developments where they could afford to buy; you don't find them
    in Times Square.

    If you track back, even the advent of the M+P was an upscale redevelopment of what was previously farmland (and no doubt people were despairing of losing THAT). You never see redevelopment of buildings to lower, less dense and retro uses. We all love the old days, and the individual and quirky M+Ps that gave a place character before the homogenizing effects of big money loans driving the developer to the common denominator. But until you can convince people to take a loss when they sell... (Nevermind, that local demand convinced the developer that
    there would be a market for Trader Joes or Applebees.)

    2. The above notwithstanding, Grand Int'l Mart in 7 Corners and Alexandria
    may be the kind of ethnic grocery Buckingham is looking for but at a size
    that can sustain the new rents.

    If you have any influence with the developer, mention it. Their floorplate is larger than Glebe's, but they may be ready for a smaller application.

    Reid Goldstein

    The writer is referring to last week's HeraldTrib Today column. --ST

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    Police Notes for Buckingham June 4, 2008

    May 26: Attempted Burglary, 100 block of N. Wakefield St. At around 11:00 a.m., an unknown suspect slashed a screen door and a window screen, and broke two panes of glass, in an attempt to enter a vacant residence. Nothing appears to be missing.

    View Larger Map

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    Tuesday, June 03, 2008

    Plaintiffs in School Board Lawsuit Will "Wait and See"

    The Arlington Public Schools Board will meet in June to revote on decisions it made once already in February, after a judge ruled that the public hearings for that vote were not properly advertised.

    Arlington Circuit Court Judge Joanne Alper handed down a decision May 28 stating that the votes taken on Feb. 14 were made illegally as the public hearings of Feb. 13 and 14 had not been properly advertised. The plaintiffs in the case will “wait and see” whether to pursue more legal avenues regarding how the boundary decisions were made after the June 12 meeting, one of the plaintiffs said.

    (Click to enlarge the image.)

    “The county has rules, operating rules,…that form the basis for how they make boundary decisions,” said plaintiff Joe Delogu. “They did not follow their own rules.”

    The Feb. 14 meeting was the culmination of months of study and testimony regarding over-crowding in a handful of North Arlington elementary schools. However, a public hearing that potentially influenced the votes of school board members was delayed by an an ice storm from Feb. 12 to Feb. 13 and 14.

    According to a school system press release last week, the Feb. 13 public hearing was “procedurally defective” because it was not advertised in newspapers at least 10 days in advance. This voided the redistricting vote, the release says.

    “You know I think the press release speaks for itself. The only thing I would add is that we respect the judge’s decision,” said School Board Chair Ed Fendley in a recent interview.

    Three plaintiffs—Joseph and Nancy Delogu; Jay Stewart and Deborah Morone; and Matthew and Stacy Keeley—brought the law suit against the school board on March 17 claiming that the school board’s decision, which moved planning unit 1601 where they live, was illegal not only for the failure to advertise the meeting properly but also for breaking the school board’s own policies.

    Specifically, the plaintiffs maintained that the school board did not properly consider alternatives to moving boundaries, which the school board’s policy requires.

    The May 28 hearing looked only at the issue of advertising. Another hearing was scheduled for June 23 to look at the issues surrounding policy, but that hearing has been taken off the docket, said Linda Jackson, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

    Mr. Delogu said the plaintiffs will meet after the June school board meeting and figure out whether to proceed with a law suit regarding the way in which the decision was made.

    The June vote on boundaries will break yet another school board policy, Mr. Delogu said. The board is not supposed to be deciding issues of boundaries after April.

    “So they’re breaking yet another one of their rules in order to hold this revote,” he said.

    Ms. Jackson said, “The overarching principle…is to hold the school board accountable.”

    Planning units are the portions of neighborhoods that the school system looks at when changing the boundaries of different schools. PU1601 was part of Tuckahoe Elementary, but after the vote on Feb. 14, it became part of Nottingham Elementary School, a change that was to take place in the 2008-09 school year.

    For their part, the school system said in court documents that the school board had contacted all speakers slated for the Feb. 12 meeting to notify them of the change of date.

    “At both sets of hearings each of the Plaintiffs themselves, and/or their spouses, personally testified and addressed the School Board,” the document says. As well, one public hearing had been properly advertised and executed in January, thereby alleviating the need for further meetings, the school board argued.

    No word as yet from the judge explaining her decision. The revote will take place on June 12.

    Frank Bellavia, a spokesperson for the schools, said “I can’t speak to what the board members are going to do,” but that he did not expect a change in the vote.

    Does Mr. Fendley think the voting, which was unanimous in February, will change? He said, “Come on out on the twelfth.”

    Related stories…
  • HeraldTrib's Links to Boundary Issues Page (updated regularly)

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