My name is Jim Gill, and I am the President of the Arlington Heights Civic Association.
Arlington Heights is home to Patrick Henry Elementary School, Thomas Jefferson Middle School, and the Career Center.
My remarks will be in two parts. First, I will discuss the general themes and ideas that the Civic Association asked me to bring forward. Second, I will discuss some of the weaknesses that we noted in the draft report itself. These weaknesses confused our discussions and working through them consumed Civic Association time better spent on substantive issues. They are important, because unless they are corrected, the report is vulnerable to gross misinterpretation.
The General Themes and Ideas
- Property owned by the School Board should remain in public hands until it is clear that neither the School Board nor the County Government has any use for it. If the School Board finds that it owns real estate it does not need, it should offer it to the County before it sells, ground leases, or enters into public-private partnerships to develop it.
It makes little sense for the School Board to absorb commissions and other optional real estate transfer costs to sell at the same time that the County Government is absorbing them to buy if the school property can meet county needs.
We recognize that the School Board and the County Board are different entities, but the same electorate chooses them, the same taxpaying base funds their work, and the same geographic boundaries define their jurisdictions. We trust that they can work out a fair and equitable value for any real estate that passes between them.
- The Columbia Pike Branch Library should remain within Arlington Heights. This means that general assumption that “The library at the Career Center is included in space allocations for new construction scenarios, both at the Career Center or elsewhere.” is unacceptable, because the study does not propose any new construction scenarios in Arlington Heights or within walking distance of Arlington Heights except at the Career Center.
- If the Career Center site is redesigned or rebuilt, trucks must enter or exit the new facility from either Walter Reed Drive or South 9th Street. Routine truck traffic is incompatible with the residential nature of South Highland Street and the safety requirements for Patrick Henry Elementary School.
- For the same reasons, reconstruction or improvements on the Career Center site must not increase traffic on South Highland Street.
- Reconstruction or improvements on the Career Center Site must be built in place. This preserves the safety buffer between the construction process and Patrick Henry Elementary School. This buffer should be maintained as green space.
Some of the Weaknesses in the Draft Report
- The cost estimate for Scenario 1, the baseline case, includes the costs to maintain the existing facilities for 25 years. The cost estimates for the competing scenarios do not include 25 year maintenance costs. This makes financial comparison between the baseline and alternative cases impossible.
- The area identified as “Public Amenities / Open Space” in the scenario descriptions includes parks, open space, affordable housing, and historic preservation. These are not equivalent uses. Parks have a different purpose and feel than parking lots, although both are open space and available to the public at large. Affordable housing is a public good, but affordable housing units are private residences. It is impossible to understand what is meant by “historic preservation” in this context, and how it fits into the land use trade space.
The final report should differentiate between these uses, so that the neighborhoods can understand how the scenarios will affect them.
- The amplifying remarks for Scenario 4 state that the area remaining in the Career Center site after construction for school system use will be ground leased to a private developer. This is inconsistent with the accompanying pie chart that states that 40% of the site will be set aside for public amenities unless the private developer is going to provide them. If this is the case, the report should specify what amenities the developer is expected to provide.
Thank you for this opportunity to comment on your draft report. We look forward to commenting on the smooth.