The Alexandria City Council did not vote on moving the Community Service Board’s Clubhouse program to 1400 Duke Street because that site is no longer available.
Council had planned to vote on the matter at its March 26 meeting but members were surprised when the owners notified the city late last week that the site was not available for the Clubhouse at this time. The owners of the building informed City Manager Philip Sunderland that they were not willing to discuss the matter with the city for at least 90 days.
Neighbors had expressed opposition to the Clubhouse being located at this site because of the need for a reduction in required parking spaces and because of the type of consumers that the program serves.
“I believe that we could have worked out an arrangement that would have addressed the concerns that were raised at the hearing,” said Councilwoman Claire Eberwein. “And I know the Council was committed to doing that. There’s a very real need to find a safe, adequately sized site for those who use the valuable services that the Clubhouse provides. The city must move forward to resolve the situation."
ONE OF THE REASONS that the site is no longer available is that the Shiloh Baptist Church, which is currently located at 1401 Duke Street, has signed a lease to occupy all of the vacant space in the building. According to an application for a special use permit, which was filed with the city’s Department of Planning and Zoning, late on March 26, the church would like to use 1400 Duke Street for a new 500-seat sanctuary. The application requested a 65-space parking reduction. The owner has agreed to provide 35 parking spaces onsite while there is a requirement for 100 parking spaces for this type of use. The application came with assurances that neighbors who opposed locating the Clubhouse at the site because of parking reduction request, supported this use.
The application was filed just in time to meet the deadline for the June Planning Commission meeting. Council would then hear the matter first at the June 15, public hearing and vote on it at the last legislative meeting of the year on June 25.
“I was surprised and must say that I am very lukewarm about the proposed use and the requested parking reduction,” said Councilman David Speck. “I have a lot of questions about the application. It was certainly proper for us to defer the matter at this week’s Council meeting because there was no action for us to take.”
Mayor Kerry J. Donley agreed. “While it would be improper for me to comment on the application at this time, I would say to the neighbors, be careful what you wish for if the parking reduction is as large as I have been led to believe,” Donley said. “If we do indeed decide to go this way and there is a parking problem, the neighbors will have to live with it.”
DONLEY SAID THAT HE WAS NOT AWARE of any immediate sites where the Clubhouse could be located. “We will have to continue to look,” he said.
Speck is not closing the door on 1400 Duke as a possible site. “I am not sure that we won’t have the opportunity to discuss this matter at some later date,” he said. “I was very disappointed with the tone and contents of the debate on this matter and believe that if we could have discussed it in a quieter manner, we might have been able to resolve most of the issues. Every time we have had a discussion about locating a group home or some type of a mental health treatment program in a neighborhood, we have had these concerns. Then, once we have located the facility in the neighborhood, everything has been fine. The Clubhouse serves a vital need and we must move quickly to find a place for it.”