To the editor:
There are three difficult, if not virtually insurmountable, underlying problems with the public-private partnership Alexandria City Public Schools dreamed up for the Jefferson-Houston site a year ago:
1. The scale of private development needed to cover the costs of providing a new school would necessitate demolishing functioning historical properties such as the Old Town swimming pool and eliminating open space of which the neighborhood already has too little.
2. Superintendant Morton Sherman and other ACPS representatives laid out the broad parameters for a restructured pre-K-8 Jefferson-Houston School. In any public-private partnership, design concessions driven by the developers needs for the site would compromise the schools design resulting in a final blueprint not being completely dictated by educational imperatives, which could be fatal to Jefferson-Houstons educational program especially for a school with a long record of failing No Child Left Behind standards now being restructured into a pre-K-8 model as yet untried in ACPS. City council wisely allocated funds for a new school, built to ACPS standards without needing to compromise with an outside developer, maximizing the prospect of the new school proving successful despite a challenging record.
3. Your editorial (Reconsider a public-private Jefferson-Houston, June 2, 2011) did not identify any feature of the proposed mega development that would be likely to be alterable to address community concerns. The underlying, insurmountable issue with this public-private partnership is that the tax revenues saved by giving the developer extraordinary concessions come at the expense of the neighborhood, which would have to endure the adverse impact of lost open space, greater traffic and density, etc.
Everyone benefits from saving tax money, but the immediate Jefferson-Houston neighborhood would pay an extreme price were a public-private partnership to lead to mega development. For much the same reason as a commercial add-on tax is inequitable, so too is putting an extreme burden on one neighborhood for the benefit of the entire city.