Stafford supervisors delay permitting vote on new elementary school

by | Jun 21, 2024 | ALLFFP, Schools & Education, Stafford

Quickly after the vote was recorded Tuesday night, Stafford Supervisor Monica Gary left the dais in the county board chambers.

The supervisors had just agreed, 5-1, to defer until Aug. 20 a decision on whether to approve a conditional-use permit for the county’s 19th elementary school. Gary voted with four of her colleagues for the delay — but she wasn’t happy, saying the move was “disgusting.”

“This is not about politics,” the Aquia District representative said. “This is not about pleasing your people, getting re-elected, who said what, the drama across the street. This is about children.”

Approval of the permit was necessary because, at its highest point, the building would be 22 feet taller than is allowed under county regulations.

However, the discussion leading up to the vote was mainly about whether the school would further snarl traffic in the area. It would be located off Courthouse Road, near Brooke Point High School, which already generates enough traffic to cause delays of up to 17 minutes.

Jason Towery, executive director of facilities and maintenance for the Stafford school system, said that traffic improvements that would come with the new building’s construction would lessen those delays to three to five minutes. And he said a deferral of the permit vote would mean that the school district would have to break ground on the new building in December, rather than in October, which would risk dealing with inclement weather.

“I’ll say we’re on a tight schedule already and delays would be an issue, yes, financially, logistically,” Towery said.

Gary initially made a motion to approve the permit. But that was superseded by a substitute motion from Supervisor Crystal Vanuch (Rock Hill), who suggested the delay, which would give Supervisor Deuntay Diggs (George Washington District) the ability to take part in the discussion. Diggs was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Gary said the supervisors can’t very well promote Stafford as a place for people to move to if they don’t approve measures such as building more schools to accommodate a growing student population.

She also noted that the board on Tuesday night had already approved a similar permit for what will be the county’s 18th elementary school, in the Hartwood area.

“I am disgusted right now,” she said before the 5-1 vote. Board of Supervisors Vice Chairwoman Tinesha Allen, who represents the Griffis-Widewater District, cast the sole dissenting vote.

Before she left her seat, Gary also said to her colleagues: “For God’s sake, reflect on yourselves.” None of the other supervisors responded, however, and the meeting was subsequently adjourned.

In other business Tuesday, Ian Ollis, administrator of the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, gave the supervisors a presentation on the potential creation of a regional transportation authority to fund projects in the area.

Such an authority would have to be created by the Virginia General Assembly and would need to include at least two localities in the Fredericksburg area, said Ollis. It would allocate money to cover the most pressing transportation projects in the region.

An authority here probably would be called the Rappahannock Area Transportation Authority and would be similar to existing authorities in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and the Richmond area, Ollis said.

King George and Spotsylvania counties have indicated they don’t want to be part of an authority, he said, but Caroline County hasn’t made a decision on the move.

The Stafford supervisors didn’t take any votes on the notion and will discuss the matter more next week.

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