Home Energy and Environment Arlington Parks Coalition County Board Candidates Questionnaire Democratic Responses

Arlington Parks Coalition County Board Candidates Questionnaire Democratic Responses

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Arlington Parks Coalition County Board Candidates Questionnaire

Democratic Responses

May 22, 2015

Arlington Parks Coalition Letter to Democratic Candidates

Dear Democratic Primary Candidate for County Board:

The Arlington Parks Coalition is a non-partisan group formed in 2014 to advocate for “…the preservation, enhancement and expansion of our current and intended County-owned parkland and community centers solely for public park, recreation

and community center purposes…” You can learn more about our organization at www.arlingtonparkscoalition.org.

Many Arlington voters are concerned about the future of our parkland and community centers, especially in light of our growing population and the increasing, and increasingly conflicting, demands on these resources. These issues are important to our organization’s members, the larger parks community and County residents as a whole, and will inform their voting decision in the upcoming

Democratic primary and November general election.

We would appreciate your answering each question below as fully as possible and returning your responses by Sunday, May 3rd. While our organization does not

make endorsements, each full set of responses received will be posted, unedited, along with the questions on our website, sent to our membership and also distributed as widely as possible within the parks community.

We would further welcome the opportunity to meet with you in person to discuss your responses and to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.

Thank you,

Rick Epstein, Chairperson

Arlington Parks Coalition

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Arlington Parks Coalition Questions:

Question 1: Although the County Board is no longer pursuing last year’s “Public Land for Public Good” initiative, it is anticipated that the Community Facilities Study Committee will develop a public facilities siting process which could potentially result in the use of our parkland and community center sites for other purposes.

a. Do you support the potential use of County parkland or community center sites for housing? for schools? for other purposes?

b. If elected to the Board, would you support the issuance of an overriding Board policy that our County parkland and community center sites should not be used for housing? for school sites? for other purposes?

Question 2: Given our County’s continuing dramatic population growth and already

crowded parks and recreation resources, do you support increasing our parkland and recreation resources sufficient to meet not only current but also future demands on these resources?, If so, what specific steps would you advocate as a Board member to accomplish this increase, including any new and innovative

funding mechanisms or other programs or tools?

Question 3: In the decade prior to the 2009 recession, the County Board approved multiple parkland acquisition bonds in amounts of at least $8 million each, which were used to acquire key parks and open space including Fort C.F. Smith Park, Long Bridge Park and Powhatan Springs Skatepark. Given the dramatic increase in the cost of land in Arlington, as a Board member would you support a 2016 Park Bond measure, and subsequent park bond measures, of at least $8 million each?

Question 4: Do you oppose siting a new elementary school on the Thomas Jefferson site (bounded by S. Old Glebe Rd., S. 2nd St., S. Irving St., and Arlington Blvd./Route 50)? Do you support Arlington County developing a long-term plan for the Thomas Jefferson site that maintains the current acreage of Thomas Jefferson Park and improves the park’s active and passive recreational space?

Question 5: The County Board initiated the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) process to plan the future development of the Wilson School site and the adjacent County fire station and Rosslyn Highlands Park. Notwithstanding a strong expression by the WRAPS committee and surrounding community that Rosslyn Highlands Park be preserved, County staff has proposed a plan giving County land to a private developer with the potential loss of two-thirds of the park. Do you support preservation of all of Rosslyn Highlands Park in its current location? If not, why not?

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Candidates’ Responses:

KATIE CRISTOL’S RESPONSES:

Thank you for this opportunity to respond – as the Arlington Parks Coalition is feeling acutely, land use and facilities planning is one of the County’s most significant and immediate issues. And I appreciate the service the Arlington Parks Coalition is providing to our community discussions about land use, by concentrating and giving clear voice to the imperative to protect our parks.

I believe the role of a County Board member is to do his or her best to balance all

interests and needs in the community. Our County Board’s responsibility is to stand in for the thousands of Arlington parents who feel as passionately about their neighborhood park as they do that their child shouldn’t have to learn in a  relocatable classroom. In order to do so, County Board members have to be able to thoughtfully evaluate data and projections and community input from all sides.

Making categorical commitments to particular uses for particular sites makes it difficult to effectively take these steps and think holistically and innovatively while

on the Board.

Please know that I would have the exact same answer for a developer, for an APS interest group, or any other stakeholder group regarding land use in Arlington.

This said, the Arlington Parks Coalition is absolutely entitled to insight into candidates’ priorities on this issue. Here are mine:

• All green space has value, and there is no “free land” in Arlington. In balancing competing interests for a given site, I will always consider the loss

of green, park or open space as a cost to the community – and make decisions accordingly.

• Any process to determine site use must be open to – and transparent to – the community. I find unacceptable the lack of transparency in the WRAPS process; in particular, what Katie Elmore has described to me as a preexisting County LOI with Penzance that was not disclosed to the community

work group. Similarly, the lack of full accounting about why the Thomas Jefferson site represents the most strategic, long-term solution for South Arlington elementary overcrowding has fed the sense that the community asset of TJ Park is being devalued. The County has to do better on

communications and honest dealing with the community in our process.

• We must creatively expand green space in Arlington. Looking only at the 2.2 square miles of current County- and APS-owned land is too narrow a frame – and inherently pits schools against parks against affordability. For me, being a champion for parks and green space on the County Board means expanding the pie instead of fighting over slices:

◦ Continuing (and seeking to increase) our strategic acquisition of land to expand neighborhood parks;

◦ Looking for creative, recreational uses of otherwise unusable sites;

◦ Cooperating with current land-holders willing to convert their underutilized space for open space and recreational purposes; and

◦ Upgrading parks so they can be used more frequently than they currently are.

I believe Park Bonds are an appropriate and strategic way to finance these sorts of acquisitions and capital upgrades.

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CHRISTIAN DORSEY’S RESPONSES:

Question 1: Although the County Board is no longer pursuing last year’s “Public Land for Public Good” initiative, it is anticipated that the Community Facilities Study Committee will develop a public facilities siting process which could potentially result in the use of our parkland and community center sites for other purposes.

a. Do you support the potential use of County parkland or community center sites for housing? for schools? for other purposes? Parkland and community centers are already public goods, and should be considered

public necessities. I do not support, on any level, repurposing parkland, or community centers within their useful lives for other purposes if it does not, at minimum maintain their existing uses. As our county becomes denser, the impact is not limited to housing

and schools; the need for parks, recreation and open space grows accordingly.

b. If elected to the Board, would you support the issuance of an overriding Board policy that our County parkland and community center sites should not be used for housing? for school sites? for other purposes?

I do not believe that is the best approach. In order to meet the multiple needs we have within our limited footprint, some creativity and flexibility are required. As was the case with Arlington Mill Community Center, housing and an expanded community center with outdoor recreation space were added to public land. This “win-win” scenario would not have been pursued under the type of overriding policy assumed in this question.

To be clear, however, it should be an overriding Board practice that only “win-wins,

that are shaped through a transparent and inclusive process of community input and feedback should lead to repurposing  park and community center sites. See also response to Question 2 below.

Question 2: Given our County’s continuing dramatic population growth and already crowded parks and recreation resources, do you support increasing our parkland and recreation resources sufficient to meet not only current but also future demands on these resources?, If so, what specific steps would you advocate as a Board member to accomplish this increase, including any new and innovative

funding mechanisms or other programs or tools?

Yes, I support enhancing and expanding our park and recreation resources and increasing funding to satisfy that commitment.

I do not support funding increases for parks and recreation through dedicated sales taxes (regressive), or increased user fees beyond those necessary to cover programming’s true costs. That leaves a number of other options that taken together hold promise for meeting our current demand and future needs:

• Developer contributions dedicated to parks and recreation resources

• Fully utilizing approved bonds, understood to be for park acquisition, for their intended purposes

• Exploring new forms like vertical gardens, and new places, like sub and above surface locations to expand both green space and recreation opportunities

• Using our external value capture instruments like tax increment financing and business improvement districts to generate steady funding streams beyond general funds

• Exploring how conservancies and philanthropies can become more integrated with our plans for land cquisition, and/or ongoing operations.

Question 3: In the decade prior to the 2009 recession, the County Board approved multiple parkland acquisition bonds in amounts of at least $8 million each, which were used to acquire key parks and open space including Fort C.F. Smith Park, Long Bridge Park and Powhatan Springs Skatepark. Given the dramatic increase in the cost of land in Arlington, as a Board member would you support a 2016 Park Bond

measure, and subsequent park bond measures, of at least $8 million each?

That is a reasonable bond figure for 2016 and the foreseeable future. As a general  principle, I want to analyze our fiscal conditions and acquisition opportunities on a

contemporaneous basis, so I am not prepared now to make specific dollar commitments in the “out” years. To be clear, acquisition is a priority, not just when resources are abundant.

Question 4: Do you oppose siting a new elementary school on the Thomas Jefferson site (bounded by S. Old Glebe Rd., S. 2nd St., S. Irving St., and Arlington Blvd./Route 50)? Do you support Arlington County developing a long-term plan for the Thomas Jefferson site that maintains the current acreage of Thomas Jefferson Park and improves the park’s active and passive recreational space?

I do not oppose it in absolute terms. As I noted in question one, if there is a way to at

least preserve, and ideally enhance park, recreation and open space resources at the

site while locating a new building there-provided that externalities like traffic and

environmental impact are addressed appropriately-that can constitute a “win-win” scenario.

I do support planning to improve TJ park’s current uses and to improve access. While

a useful metric, maintaining square footage is not the only barometer I use to gauge enhancement to public spaces. Design, configuration and calculations of usable and

useful open space are very important in determining a space’s value.

Question 5: The County Board initiated the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) process to plan the future development of the Wilson School site and the adjacent County fire station and Rosslyn Highlands Park. Notwithstanding a strong

expression by the WRAPS committee and surrounding community that Rosslyn Highlands Park be preserved, County staff has proposed a plan giving County land to

a private developer with the potential loss of two-thirds of the park. Do you

support preservation of all of Rosslyn Highlands Park in its current location? If not,

why not?

I do, because the green spaces in Rosslyn are woefully inadequate for current, let alone

future demand. I do not believe there are enough efficiencies that can be gained by

park design that could offset the harm caused by the proposed reduced square footage

in RHP. That reduced square footage will result in a catastrophic loss of green space in

the community.

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PETER FALLON’S RESPONSES:

Question 1: I strongly believe that, in a community with limited land, our natural

open spaces make us a better place to live. I routinely find deer, foxes and rabbits in

my yard, a mere two blocks from Lee Highway and several high rises. We don’t need

to pave over our parks to meet the growing demand for public resources throughout Arlington. It’s time we got creative in meeting our needs andserving as responsible environmental stewards.

As a member of the County Board, I will champion the joint use of sites like our

schools to fulfill community needs while preserving valuable open space. That means acquiring new sites through friendly purchases and developer easements, and communicating clearly with the neighborhoods about their current and future community needs. Most importantly we must be transparent about every step of the process, from acquisition to development of park amenities.

Our success as a community comes from our vision of long-term needs: both our planning flexibility and our relationships with community stakeholders. I will strongly oppose a net loss of park space during my tenure on the County

Board, and will take every effort to preserve space. As a Planning Commissioner, I have supported developing brownfields into premier recreational spaces – areas like

Long Bridge Park, Arlington Mill Community Center and Four Mile Run. I’m proud of

my involvement in making our community green.

The solution is not a blanket ban on development – the solution is efficient use of

land and balancing competing priorities. We also need improved County Board transparency. We have to engage with the community and come to mutual agreements on how we’re developing Arlington.

Question 2: Not only have we grown in total population, but the changing population has brought about changing needs for our community open space. A growing number of young families creates a stronger need for parks with infant- and

young-child-friendly play space. The growing number of family pets in apartment buildings creates an acute need for dog runs and more accessible dog parks. I’m

ready to propose creative solutions to meet our changing needs:

1. Incentivize developers to build multi-use community spaces on their sites, with the goal of providing a community benefit. These developments can be dog

runs, community gardens, green rooftops or even projects like playground “pocket

parks.”

2. Use the site plan process and sector plans to turn patchworks of small parks into contiguous, larger community green spaces. This can be done by engaging with communities and developers, and creating incentives that encourage the coordination of park construction during the building process. This happened with

Penrose Square on Columbia Pike, which will double in size when the adjacent CVS

site redevelops.

3. Create a county-managed “Parks Fund” similar to our current Shared

Parking Fund on Columbia Pike and in Clarendon. This would allow developers to pay into a central fund that would offset the cost of parks and green space

construction in communities, removing some of the burden from Arlington’s coffers

and better involving our developers in the vibrant life of our community. Using this plan, we not only attract residents to high rises, we also lower our commercial vacancies by providing in-demand amenities near work spaces (like Long Bridge Park and the additional

Washington & Lee pool lanes).

We currently practice some of these ideas as one-off approaches with developers. I intend to turn these ideas into a comprehensive, long-term County Board plan that integrates green and recreation space consideration at every step of the process. We can conduct this plan in a transparent and inclusive way, fostering dialogues and constructive feedback during the process.

All of these solutions depend on an open and collaborative relationship with community leaders. They know better than anyone the needs of their communities, and I am confident my approach can bring together developers, the County Board and these local stakeholders to build a more sustainable, more transparent process for all Arlingtonians.

Question 3: Yes – I would support both ongoing Open Space Acquisition Bonds to acquire new parkland, and a Parks Bond to develop those sites and their amenities

in locations throughout the county. As President of the Donaldson Run Civic Association, I worked with county staff to add park space on the North 26th Street

mulch pile. I have publicly supported Parks Bonds throughout my civic career in Arlington, and believe we need to be ready to make strategic acquisitions as land comes onto the open market.

But sustaining our community open space is about much more than just supporting a Parks Bond. As we look at sites for the construction of new schools, it must be a major priority of the County Board to emphasize co-locating public resources within

these new schools. That may mean building upward instead of outward, or considering the needs of local senior citizens as well as high school seniors. Sharing

space with multiple public uses allows us a great opportunity to be both engaged advocates of a vibrant community life and responsible stewards of our open space.

Question 4: We have a critical need for a new school in South Arlington, as students face the reality of spending multiple educational years learning in modular trailers.

APS made its site preference known, and I support their initial decision. The original Thomas Jefferson Elementary site is a parking lot with no plans for a transition to parkland. The lack of clarity in the County Board’s decision damaged relations with the community and deprived South Arlington of a much-needed opportunity to relive our growing enrollment crunch.

I firmly agree that the greenspace/recreation portion of Thomas Jefferson Park should be preserved and improved – but that doesn’t mean choosing between the

survival of a parking lot or the construction of a school. In fact, with my plan for colocated

services, we could host both a new school in South Arlington and a newlyvibrant Thomas Jefferson Park side-by-side. That would include adding recreation spaces like basketball and tennis courts to the roof of a new elementary school. I will never sacrifice our parks space, but I am willing to draw a distinction between a true

park for people and a parking lot cars.

Question 5: Rosslyn is made better with open space, and Rosslyn Highlands Park is a vital part of that improvement. At the same time, we have to recognize that Rosslyn is growing. We need H.B. Woodlawn to alleviate middle school overcrowding and a new fire station to serve the corridor. There are ways we can do this without undermining the sense of community created by Rosslyn Highlands Park.

I support preserving our parks space in Rosslyn by constructing a fire station financed through the Capital Improvement Program. Preliminary plans for the new H.B. Woodlawn facility include indoor recreation, rooftop recreation and a surface

field. These spaces will dramatically increase recreation opportunities in Rosslyn, and must be available to the at-large community. The block needs to accommodate APS, the fire station and Rosslyn Highlands Park so that each component best serves its purpose and the larger community.

By engaging with the community in ways the County Board often hasn’t in the past, I am a firm believer in our ability to both preserve our green spaces and provide a world-class education to our students. I am committed to better alignment of the APS and county facilities planning processes to create more opportunities for shared recreational use while preserving our valued green spaces.

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JAMES LANDER’S RESPONSES:

Question 1: Although the County Board is no longer pursuing last year’s “Public Land for Public Good” initiative, it is anticipated that the Community Facilities Study Committee will develop a public facilities siting process which could potentially result in the use of our parkland and community center sites for other purposes.

a. Do you support the potential use of County parkland or community center sites for housing? for schools? for other purposes?

No. I do not support the use or consideration of parkland for construction of housing and/or schools. Green and open spaces are an asset to our community.

Community center sites, depending on location, size, and amount of usage should be considered for multi-use facilities; specifically for the consideration of potentially co-locating Pre-K or Elementary school programs in sites that are under utilized like

Drew Community center, Carver Community Center, and Madison Community

Center. I also strongly support a community engagement process, which would be

inclusive, informative, and respectful of differing points of view prior to any decisions being confirmed.

a. If elected to the Board, would you support the issuance of an overriding Board

policy that our County parkland and community center sites should not be

used for housing? for school sites? for other purposes?

As your county board member, I will lead on maintaining and expanding our parks and open space by developing policies to reaffirm that principle. Our community is

growing at an unprecedented pace. Schools alone have experienced an average of 1000 students each year for the past seven years; that’s a middle school worth of

new students every year. Because of my experience as an elected official, I understand we cannot afford to build enough new facilities nor can we build fast

enough to address our enrollment crisis. As a steward of your tax dollars, I will support the rapid growth within our county by providing access to and maximizing

use of existing facilities.

Question 2: Given our County’s continuing dramatic population growth and already crowded parks and recreation resources, do you support increasing our parkland

and recreation resources sufficient to meet not only current but also future demands on these resources? If so, what specific steps would you advocate as a

Board member to accomplish this increase, including any new and innovative funding mechanisms or other programs or tools?

Our county’s unprecedented growth is an issue on which I’ve worked, in

partnership, with my county and school board colleagues including working directly with the county manager and superintendent. Under my leadership as chairman of the school board, I’m building new schools and renovating existing facilities without compromising green and open space. As your county board member, I will lead by continuing to work collaboratively with my county and school board colleagues to

ensure that any new construction results does not result in a net loss of green space.

To increase the potential for additional green and open spaces I will support policies that require architects to design facilities that include open/green space requirements.

Question 3: In the decade prior to the 2009 recession, the County Board approved

multiple parkland acquisition bonds in amounts of at least $8 million each, which were used to acquire key parks and open space including Fort C.F. Smith Park, Long Bridge Park and Powhatan Springs Skatepark. Given the dramatic increase in the cost of land in Arlington, as a Board member would you support a 2016 Park Bond measure, and subsequent park bond measures, of at least $8 million each?

Yes. I would support a 2016 Park Bond measure. As a community, we value open and green space and I will continually support putting these bonds before the voters.

Question 4: Do you oppose siting a new elementary school on the Thomas Jefferson site (bounded by S. Old Glebe Rd., S. 2nd St., S. Irving St., and Arlington Blvd./Route 50)? Do you support Arlington County developing a long-term plan for the Thomas

Jefferson site that maintains the current acreage of Thomas Jefferson Park and improves the park’s active and passive recreational space?

Yes. As a school board member I voted against making Jefferson the preferred site for a new elementary school. As chair of the school board, I successfully advocated

for preserving TJ Park, resulting in 4 of the 5 county board members voting to delay

construction at the Jefferson site. I also worked collaboratively with the Save TJ Park

organization and was recognized by that group for my leadership. As a county board member I will continue to lead on protecting TJ Park to ensure that we maintain adequate recreation space for our community.

Question 5: The County Board initiated the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) process to plan the future development of the Wilson School site and the adjacent County fire station and Rosslyn Highlands Park. Notwithstanding a strong

expression by the WRAPS committee and surrounding community that Rosslyn Highlands Park be preserved, County staff has proposed a plan giving County land to

a private developer with the potential loss of two-thirds of the park. Do you support preservation of all of Rosslyn Highlands Park in its current location? If not, why not?

Yes. I support preservation of all of Rosslyn Highlands Park. Under my leadership as school board chair, I advocated for the siting of the new school in Rosslyn to be

located on Wilson Blvd. This location of the facility would provide the opportunity for continuous green space on school and county property along 18th Street. As a county board member I will be committed to following through on what I initiated as chairman of the school board. As a county board member, I will not support using

private developer funds for public services, including our fire stations.

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ANDREW SCHNEIDER’S RESPONSES:

Question 1: Although the County Board is no longer pursuing last year’s “Public Land for Public Good” initiative, it is anticipated that the Community Facilities Study Committee will develop a public facilities siting process which could potentially result in the use of our parkland and community center sites for other purposes.

a. Do you support the potential use of County parkland or community center sites for housing? for schools? for other purposes?

No. I believe that the County must continue to use thoughtful acquisitions and creative use of space to address  our housing, school and parkland needs. I don’t support using existing resources to placate other problems.

b. If elected to the Board, would you support the issuance of an overriding Board policy that our County parkland and community center sites should not be used for housing? for school sites? for other purposes?

My job as a County Board member is to handle the challenges currently facing the County and to provide a vision that can be implemented. I support a vision that protects and preserves our parks and community resources.

Question 2: Given our County’s continuing dramatic population growth and already crowded parks and recreation resources, do you support increasing our parkland and recreation resources sufficient to meet not only current but also future demands on these resources?, If so, what specific steps would you advocate as a Board member to accomplish this increase, including any new and innovative

funding mechanisms or other programs or tools?

Yes. I would support restoring the land acquisition funding that has been cut in recent years. I am also a strong advocate of the Rosslyn boathouse and other partnerships with regional and federal partners to take advantage of our riverfront location and the natural assets that are not fully being utilized in the County.

Question 3: In the decade prior to the 2009 recession, the County Board approved multiple parkland acquisition bonds in amounts of at least $8 million each, which

were used to acquire key parks and open space including Fort C.F. Smith Park, Long Bridge Park and Powhatan Springs Skatepark. Given the dramatic increase in the

cost of land in Arlington, as a Board member would you support a 2016 Park Bond measure, and subsequent park bond measures, of at least $8 million each?

Yes.

Question 4: Do you oppose siting a new elementary school on the Thomas Jefferson site (bounded by S. Old Glebe Rd., S. 2nd St., S. Irving St., and Arlington Blvd./Route 50)? Do you support Arlington County developing a long-term plan for the Thomas Jefferson site that maintains the current acreage of Thomas Jefferson Park and improves the park’s active and passive recreational space?

I did not oppose a new school at TJ. I do support a long term plan for the TJ space that incorporates enhanced park space and meets the needs of the schools.

Question 5: The County Board initiated the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) process to plan the future development of the Wilson School site and the adjacent County fire station and Rosslyn Highlands Park. Notwithstanding a strong expression by the WRAPS committee and surrounding community that Rosslyn

Highlands Park be preserved, County staff has proposed a plan giving County land to a private developer with the potential loss of two-thirds of the park. Do you support preservation of all of Rosslyn Highlands Park in its current location? If not, why not?

I support a park in Rosslyn that is useable and attractive and meets the needs of the community. I am open to creative solutions that meet the needs of the schools and local business owners. I was not supportive of the County’s handling of the entire process and call for greater transparency and direction from the County and for the

County’s study/commission work.

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BRUCE WILJANEN’S RESPONSES:

Question 1: I am categorically opposed to using our irreplaceable parklands and greenspaces for housing, schools, fire stations, or any other municipal facilities.

These county owned open spaces are held in trust for the people of Arlington, are an essential part of our urban environment, and are not to be considered a land bank for every other facilities need that arises.

Community centers are coming online individually for renovation and

reconstruction, and so usage requirements will evolve with the needs of our changing community. Some early years and senior educational uses may be appropriate, but most certainly not housing or K-12 school buildings.

Questions 2 and 3: While our population grows and our need for recreational space grows, our land area remains stubbornly fixed! There is precious little open green space left to acquire, at any price. One possibility we must pursue is the building of

sport fields over sections of Route 66. We are going to have to be very imaginative in

order to create new land where none currently exists. An $8 million park bond is not an exorbitant amount to invest in our parklands and greenspaces.

Question 4: The siting of a new elementary school at the Thomas Jefferson location was clearly not fully vetted by the School Board. A better location will be found more centrally located to the student population it was intended to serve. I fully support the development of a long term recreational usage plan for the entire Thomas Jefferson parcel.

Question 5: I support the preservation of all of Rosslyn Highlands Park in predominantly its current location. If minor adjustments need to be made to fully utilize the site for the benefit of all the stakeholders, the square footage of the recreational space should not be reduced. We cannot continue to trade our irreplaceable parkland for private development without endangering the fabric of our entire community.