Despite a protest from the Seminary Hill Civic Association that required passage by a super majority [six votes], the Alexandria City Council approved the Quaker Ridge development on Duke Street.
The townhouse development will be located at 3517—3551 Duke Street where there are currently five single family homes. It required Council to approve an amendment to the master plan and a change in the zoning. Several people from the adjacent Quaker Village community testified in opposition to the project at Council’s public hearing, held on Nov. 15.
Councilman Ludwig Gaines offered several amendments to the proposed development special use permit, which made the project acceptable to many of the neighbors. The row of dwellings at Quaker Ridge that are nearest to Quaker Village will be shifted 10 feet further to the south and the tree buffer will be increased by approximately 10 feet. Carr Homes will contribute $40,000 to the Quaker Village Homeowners Association reserve for the purpose of maintaining, improving, or adding to the retaining wall along the southern boundary of the Quaker Village development.
Carr Homes will also post a bond or letter of credit in an amount to be agreed upon with city staff to cover the potential cost of repair to the Quaker Village retaining wall in the event of damage caused by, or directly related to, site development and/or construction of the Quaker Ridge project. This bond may also be used to repair potential damage to the Quaker Village houses as a result of site development and construction. This bond or letter of credit will remain in effect for five years from the date that construction begins. Finally, Carr Homes agreed to reduce the number of homes from 25 to 23 and will offer two of those 23 homes for sale as affordable housing to persons to be designated by the city’s office on housing.
“I know that this compromise does not please some of my neighbors,” Gaines said. “However, City Council is not elected by district; we are elected by the entire city and are elected to serve the entire city. This compromise, in my opinion, is the right thing for the entire city.
“The five homeowners were of great consequence to me in making my decision to support this development. They have the right to sell their homes and to get appropriate benefit from that sale. My conscience is clear and I will sleep tonight knowing that I have done the right thing,” he said.
COUNCILMAN Andrew Macdonald did not agree. “This is just another sleazy deal and a bad planning decision,” he said. “When those who spoke against this development said that this was a litmus test for this Council, they were right and we have failed…” he said.
Mayor William D. Euille took issue with Macdonald’s choice of words saying, “We do not use adjectives such as those used by my colleague from this dais,” Euille said. “We treat people with respect. If Mr. Macdonald wanted to say something like that he should have done so in private. That kind of behavior will not be tolerated.”
Councilwoman Joyce Woodson questioned the $40,000 contribution to the Quaker Village homeowners association. “This looks like extortion to me,” Woodson said. “The message here is that if you yell loud enough, the developer will put some money on the table and make it all better. I think it’s a bad precedent.”
Council approved the development by a six to one margin, with Macdonald voting no.