Update: The County and School Boards voted at their Nov. 10 joint Work Session to approve next steps for the facilities planning process. The Boards instructed the County Manager and Public Schools Superintendant to have staff review the commitee’s Final Report and provide initial responses to the Committee’s recommendations no later than February 2016. Community feedback and formal staff recommendations will be due by September 30, 2016. The Boards will reconvene with the Committee to provide an update and next steps by the end of 2016. The School Board voted 5-0 and the County Board voted 3-0-1, with Board Member Libby Garvey abstaining.
- Advisory Committee to present final report Nov. 10 to County, School Boards
- Calling for new, three-tiered structure to improve planning, decision-making
- Recommending joint County, APS Facility Strategic Planning Committee
An 11-month effort by the Community Facilities Study Committee will culminate Nov. 10 when the committee presents recommendations to a joint work session of the County and School Boards on how better to manage the process of siting and prioritizing community facilities.
One of the most important questions the committee was asked to answer is what community challenges are there that, if unaddressed, could threaten Arlington’s overall sustainability?
The group identified five pressing community challenges:
- A scarcity of land for public facilities – Just 2.2 square miles of Arlington’s 26 square miles are public land owned by the County or APS. That public land is needed for schools, fire stations, community centers, storage and maintenance facilities and more.
- Changing demographics – Arlington’s population is projected to grow from 216,700 today to 283,000 in 2040. School enrollment is expected to exceed 30,000 students by 2024.
- A threatened commercial tax base – A shrinking federal presence, shifts in the way businesses use office space, and a competitive regional market have combined to push office vacancy rates to a historic high in Arlington.
- Strategic facility planning and priority setting – The County needs a clear and open structure for setting priorities among competing needs.
- Revamping the community dialogue – To reach all members of our community, Arlington needs to make participation easier, earlier and more meaningful.
“Arlington is facing some important choices in the next few years,” said John Milliken, Chair of the Study Committee. “We are growing, as young parents and their children choose Arlington as a place to live, but we are only 26 miles and space for future facilities is limited. We will have to set priorities and be creative through reuse, joint use and collaboration with others. The strategic challenges we identified should be on the office white boards of elected and appointed officials to serve as a backdrop for their day-to-day decision making.”
“Our goal with this study was to include the broadest sense of the community in our process,” said Ginger Brown, Co-Chair of the Study Committee. “From the start, we carried out a robust outreach effort, utilized new engagement tools and structured the process to enhance collaboration. The successful partnership achieved between the County, Arlington Public Schools and the community could be a model for future processes.”
Recommendations and next steps
Many of the recommendations the committee plans to propose at the work session aim to improve processes or functions by better aligning County, APS and community efforts.
A key recommendation is the creation of a new, three-tiered structure to improve planning and decision making. The structure is proposed to consist of a Facility Strategic Planning committee, with two County Board and two School Board members, a joint County/APS staff team, and a new Joint Facility Advisory Commission. The three groups would work together to:
- improve coordination and collaboration between the County and APS;
- establish and implement a process to identify facility needs early;
- raise awareness of needs with the community and provide opportunities for input;
- monitor demographic and economic data to influence decision making; and
- strategize alternative solutions before the CIP funding prioritization and specific siting processes begin.
A second key recommendation is a new facility siting process. In a previous work session on September 29, the committee presented its proposed Siting Principles and Process.
The County and School Board will receive this report at the November 10 work session, and discuss next steps.
About the Community Facilities Study Committee
In January 2015, the Arlington County Board and the Arlington School Board launched a broad-based, in-depth community facilities planning effort. The two Boards appointed a 23-member Facilities Study Committee with the goal of building a consensus framework. The framework is meant to inform County and School Board decision-making related to meeting the community’s requirements for additional school, fire station, vehicle storage sites and other facility needs in the context of Arlington’s and the region’s projected economic and demographic growth.
To learn more about the Community Facilities Study, visit the County website.