Reconsider Approval of Design for Lubber Run Community Center

These remarks, delivered at July 18 Arlington County Board Meeting, are excerpted from a message sent to County officials on July 17 by long-time civic leader and environmentalist Suzanne Sundburg.

I request that you defer taking action on item 52 (Lubber Run Community Center – Endorsement of the Conceptual Design) for the following reasons: 1) flawed process, 2) environmental impact and 3) cost.

Flawed Process
Staff appears to have ignored a request from the Public Facilities Review Committee (PFRC) that notification of PFRC meetings on the project be distributed via listserv to the Lubber Run community.

According to a resident subscribed to the LRCC listserv, he received no announcements of PFRC meetings. And in one instance, staff scheduled an LRCC public meeting that conflicted with a PFRC meeting also being held to review the LRCC project.

Staff’s perception of the community’s feedback on this project continues to be at odds with the public’s perception of what it wants: namely, to save the site’s trees and make environmental protection/habitat preservation a priority. Letters received from E2C2, PFRC and Natural Resources Joint Advisory Group (NRJAG) indicate that the footprint of the final design does not honor these priorities.

Not surprisingly, neither the PFRC letter nor the Natural Resources Joint Advisory Group letter were uploaded to the project page nor made available as part of staff’s report. Had I not asked about the geotechnical engineering/borings report, it, too, never would have seen the light of day.

Environmental Impact
I’ve already apprised you of the remarkable similarity between the LRCC site and the Ashlawn Elementary School site, where the steep grade, removal of approximately 100 trees and expansive soil disturbance/site re-grading have exacerbated runoff and triggered ongoing storm water management failures — including erosion and sediment problems that add to water quality and flood risk issues for nearby Four Mile Run.

Given the similarity in site conditions and the likely removal of at least as many trees; the presence of water on the LRCC site, documented by the Geotechnical report; coupled with the sprawling footprint of the final design, it is likely that construction of the new LRCC will force a repeat of what occurred at Ashlawn ES—namely environmental degradation caused by erosion and runoff.

Cost
The $47.86 million in “total cost” is exorbitant. Even accounting for the parking garage by doubling the maximum building square footage to 110,000 sq ft, the price tag comes to over $430 per square foot. That is almost 4 times the “high” estimate for constructing a community center in Arlington. VA, using BuildingJournal.com’s online construction-cost estimating tool, which puts the price of a community center in Arlington County at $121 per sq ft or $13.3 million total.

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