Supervisors Vote to Buy NCC Site for High School

Signed contract, expected soon, starts 120-day due diligence process on $20 million deal.

By Dusty Smith

Ashburn Patch

Sept. 20, 2011

After multiple meetings, a years long review of sites and the persistent request of another property owner to reconsider, the Loudoun Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Aug. 20 to pay $20 million for a 45.61-acre portion of the National Conference Center from Oxford Capital Group LLC for a high school.

Known as HS-8, the proposed school in Lansdowne would offer the most relief to Stone Bridge High School, but would also draw from students currently enrolled at Tuscarora High School in Leesburg.

A group of residents – most who said they live near the proposed site – turned out Monday night during the board’s public input session to ask supervisors to approved the purchase.

Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run), who made the motion, said the site presents the best chance for the county to complete a school by 2015; however, plenty of hurdles remain in the process.

“This school, HS-8, needs to stay on track. This is the right place to put it,” she said. “I think today’s vote is crucial to getting this done and getting a school to open by 2015.”

Supervisor Stevens Miller (D-Dulles) responded to those who have criticized the selection as a bad business move.

“This isn’t a business,” he said. “This is about putting our children in a school they need. It’s not about making a profit. We’re here to look out for the welfare of living people.”

During the past several years, many potential school sites have failed to win support from a majority of supervisors that questioned aspect of those acquisitions. Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) has voted against some of those acquisitions, but said the county’s growth requires the county to move forward before as enrollment grows.

“It is unfortunate that is recent years it has become more and more difficult to site a facility that the county desperately needs. This is something that had to be done,” Burton said, adding that the county remains in need of other sites. “We are nowhere near out of the woods in building schools and finding sites.”

Sugarland Run Supervisor Susan Klimek Buckley sent a message to critics who think supervisors have not exhausted their options in terms of a site for school.

“We don’t make this decision in a vacuum. We have looked at options and options and options,” she said, calling the proposed school the “right school at the right location at the right time.”

She also pointed out that a four-month due diligence clause allows the county to discover problems with the site before finalizing the purchase.

“With 120 days we will set forth to answer those questions and to address those concerns,” Buckley said.

The owners of the Lexington Seven development along Route 7 near Howard Hughes Medical Institute were quick to respond that their site remains available now or for a future school.

“While we respect the board of supervisors’ decision to move forward on a contract with NCC, we will of course be open to discussing the Lexington Seven property with them and the school system in the future should the need arise, as it may,” said Ken McVearry, of Capital Associates. “We firmly believe that Lexington Seven offers the students and taxpayers of Loudoun County the fastest and most cost-effective alternative for HS-8.”

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