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October 28, 2020 - Neighborhood Forum Meeting

Neighborhood Forum Meeting Agenda
October 28, 2020, 6PM, Zoom

The following committee members and staff were in attendance: William Goff, Bill Cook, Gail Noren, James Parker, Andrea Mackey, John Finnigan, Patty Moran, Peter Balas, and Mark Eisenhour

1) Discuss  any and all construction issues occurring during the week and on Saturdays—what is being done with the issue of tearing up the field as well as removing rotten wood and possible asbestos particles—how have these been mitigated? Myself and a neighbor have white dust particles on the surfaces of tables in our yard—are these toxic? How is this being treated?

  • Mr. Finnigan provided a brief update on the status of the project.  The demolition of the press box, concession stand, storage buildings, and hardscape is complete.  Utility trenching and installation of piping for the new structures is in progress and work will begin soon on the track and field.  He noted that the buildings demolished were made of concrete block, did not handle chilled water or  include plumbing fixtures and pre-dated the use of asbestos.  Mr. Finnigan also stated that all of the materials from the demolished structures and sidewalks have been removed from the site.

2) What are the plans for Minnie Howard? Is Minnie Howard part of the TCW High School—what is the estimated cost of the school—what will the field complex look like and how many fields will there be—is Minnie Howard part of the TCW High School?  

  • Yes.  The Minnie Howard campus is a part of The High School Project.  On September 26, 2019, the Alexandria City School Board voted to expand T.C. Williams High School Connected High School Network and to build a new school building and fields  at the Minnie Howard campus. 
  • A school building will be built in the area occupied by  the turf field and will be designed to house a minimum of approximately 1600 students.
  • The  redeveloped Minnie Howard campus of TC Williams will  serve students in grades 9-12
  • The current budget for the Minnie Howard Campus is approximately $178 million
  • Dr. Hart noted that ACPS is in the process of procuring the design firm for the project.   The exact layout of the field complex has not been designed.  It will be  located primarily in the area occupied by the current school.
  • It should be noted that the Minnie Howard fields will not be available for use for an approximately 3 year period from Spring 2022 through Summer 2025 while the Minnie Howard campus is under construction.  ACPS and RCPA are working together to identify options for field uses during the construction period.

3)  When will T.C. Williams school open again? What is the status of athletics? 

  • Mr. Balas referenced the link to the : Phased Reentry Plan on the ACPS website.  He stated that the first priority for ACPS was the return of certain students with special needs students followed by pre-K and lower elementary level students.  He emphasized that the return of students at the secondary level is not included in the current re-entry plan.
  • Mr. Parker stated that the athletic program was in a ‘holding pattern’ as we work to get students back on campus for academics.  As a result there are no organized team activities occurring on campus.  Mr. Parker also stated that the Virginia High School has determined that competition will start with Winter sports on December 14th in accordance with the VHSL Return to Play Guidelines.  This will be followed by Fall sports during the months of March and April and finally Spring sports in May and June.  All teams will play a condensed schedule which includes 60% of their normal number of games and competitions.

4)  Can we have an explanation of the destruction of a 125 foot tree, which was living for over 100 years, for no reason other than it was in the way of a concession stand—there were close to 3,000 signatures on a petition to keep the tree intact—what was the reason that there was no action on this issue?

  • Mr. Finnigan noted that this project began in 2015 and the current design was approved in 2018 after three years of community meetings to minimize the impact on the neighborhood.  The City arborist approved the removal of the tree and if it remained it would affect the entire project, not just the concession stand.  Please see the link below for the August 17, 2020 meeting for a more extensive discussion of the tree removal.  
  • Notes from August 17, 2020 Construction Kick Off Meeting    
  • Mr. Goff wanted to know if the online petition signed by 3000 citizens was seriously considered by the School Board.  He felt that this process could have been handled better by ACPS and the design team.                                   

5) Why is it that the concession stand sits 7 feet  from the Woods property line? Is this a code violation? Why was the food truck not part of this idea for eating at games?

  • The corner of the concession stand closest to the Woods avenue properties is located 25.72 feet from the property line which meets the City setback requirement.  
  • Food trucks have been brought in to supplement what is offered at the concession stand for large events such as homecoming.  Food trucks  were not considered during the design process as the primary means of providing concessions for events.

6) We want some clarity on this particular issue: the concession stand will be open to game activities only; no lunch, snacks, etc., while school is in session—is this correct?

  • Correct, the concession will be used to support activities and events that occur in the stadium.  It is staffed by volunteers on the day of events.  During lunches all food is served in the cafeteria by our FNS staff.  The concession stand, storage building and restrooms will be locked unless there is an activity occurring at the stadium.

7) Additional items discussed:

  • Mr. Goff asked about the status of the traffic study.  Mr. Cook explained that neither a traffic study nor a new parking study were required as part of the approval process because there was no change in the seating capacity for the renovated stadium.  
  • Ms. Noran brought up a security concern regarding citizens accessing the field and the presence of dogs off leash on the property.  Mr. Eisenhour explained that security officers check the field frequently and direct them to leave.  He also encouraged everyone to call the security office at 703-824-6690 or the mobile number number at 571-289-8643.   Ms. Noren also shared some neighborhood concerns about security during and after events at the stadium.  Specifically, she was concerned about cars parked in Chinquapin and how long they would remain after events concluded.  She suggested working with the City to install a gate that would automatically close at a specified hour to encourage attendees to clear the parking lot in a timely fashion.  She was also concerned about attendees parking on the nearby streets such as Woods Ave., Key Drive and Bishop Lane.  Mr. Eisenhour explained that all large events are staffed by administrators, school security officers and Alexandria police officers.  All of these personnel will remain on site until all attendees have exited the campus and designated parking areas.
  • Mr. Goff also brought up a concern about verifying the property line between the school and surrounding neighborhood especially considering that an 8th lane is being added to the track.  Mr. Eisenhour explained that the asphalt for the 8th lane already exists so it would not enlarge the footprint of the track.  Mr. Finnigan also explained that the project is well within the existing property lines so it was not necessary to complete another survey.  After the stadium project is complete, however, another project to install a 10 foot high fence along the property will be completed.  As part of this project the property lines will be verified and a determination will be made regarding the removal of the current ACPS fence that runs along the properties of Woods Avenue and Bishop Lane.