After a week of finger-pointing email exchanges and political posturing, the Clarke County School Board and the Berryville Area Development Authority (BADA) agreed, in principle, to a review schedule for approving a Mosby Boulevard easement compromise and a fire flow pump station design by April 1. Mosby Boulevard and fire flow design are the last significant hurdles to approval of a special use permit that will allow the school to finally be built.
Sentiment at last night’s much anticipated public hearing was strongly against including Mosby Boulevard in the school traffic pattern design. Berryville resident Pam Smith, a school bus driver in Loudoun County, expressed safety concerns about extending Mosby through the school property. Smith said that she had seen many good school traffic designs but Clarke’s was not safe. “Put aside the expense of extending Mosby” Smith pleaded.
Several residents cited court rulings and case law that they believe prevents the School Board from transferring property to the Town of Berryville. Resident Craig Kern insisted that “the Town of Berryville has no authority to require easements and the Clarke County School Board should resist the Town’s unconstitutional request.”
Although the Town of Berryville and Clarke County School Board have been attempting to cooperate on the Mosby issue and sharing fire control costs, many residents feared that the process was yet again in danger of derailment. Earlier in the week email messages were circulated by School Board Chairman Robina Bouffault and Berryville Town Manager Keith Dalton essentially blaming the other side for potential roadblocks to a final deal.
Bouffault’s email message suggested that the Town focus less on the “blame game” and “uneccessarily draining our limited budget with demands for unrelated town needs.” Dalton fired back with a long list of School Board missteps and planning mistakes. “But be clear, if the schools had chosen to work with the town and address this matter long ago we would not be talking about it right now” Dalton’s letter said.
The tone of the two letters raised the question of whether either side fully appreciated the public frustration with further delays to the school construction plan, regardless of who is at fault. A. R. “Pete” Dunning (White Post), Board of Supervisors representative for BADA, sensing the public’s concern that the long-awaited approval was headed towards another roadblock asked “Why can’t we just approve this right now contingent on review of the nit-picky stuff by the engineers?” “Because we need to let the process work.” replied BADA Chairman Allen Kitselman. Undetered, Dunning continued to push BADA board members, planning staff and engineering staff to commit to an accelerated timeline.
Dunning’s persistence ultimately paid off.
BADA, Dalton and Bouffault agreed to do everything possible to complete review of the proposed Mosby easement and a shared fire flow system in time for a March 25th BADA work session meeting and potential April 1st public hearing approval, much to Dunning’s and the public’s delight.
The public hearing ended in a spontaneous burst of cooperation and collaboration with both Dalton and Bouffault publically agreeing that “we’re on the right track and everything should be able to be worked out” and potentially negating the need for future email posturing.