The WRAPS Process Isn’t Democratic

At the December 18 County Board meeting, Katie Elmore, spokesperson for the North Rosslyn Civic Association, complained about WRAPS, the planning group that advised County Board on what to do with the site of the current Wilson School. She was unhappy that WRAPS did not consider preservation of historic Wilson School.

Elmore got no sympathy from Jay Fisette, who said that preserving Wilson School is not an option, because the School Board doesn’t want to preserve it. Fisette himself isn’t happy about the prospect of restoring Wilson School, because it will “upend” the County’s ability to “master plan” western Rosslyn and maximize a host of other needs including housing and open space. Furthermore Fisette was annoyed that community members have second guessed a “robust” planning process that included full discussion of preserving features or elements of the school.

Whatever Fisette meant by “robust” it wasn’t democratic. What is democratic about removing from the very outset an option that has broad based, longstanding community support? The implication that such a process is democratic is both arrogant and misleading. Also if Fisette is concerned that historic preservation of a modest three story structure will upend western Rosslyn, then he ought to consider the impact of the seven or eight story monolithic structure that School Board plans for the site.

Several weeks ago numerous people addressed School Board in favor of the plan. Most of them were no doubt relieved that their own neighborhoods were spared the megaschool –unmindful that Rosslyn is the principal gateway to all north and west Arlington. Today I ask those residents whether they agree with Jay Fisette that the WRAPS process was “robust” and if so whether they would recommend a similar planning process in their own neighborhood?

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