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Votes

Delays Prove Costly

Council imposes $5,000-per-day fine on developer of tunnel.

The Duke Street tunnel will not open on Jan. 1, 2004, as is required in the development special-use permit (SUP), but the Carlyle Development Corp. (CDC) will pay a larger price than anticipated for the delays.

In a 5-2 vote Tuesday night, Alexandria City Council decided to impose significant sanctions on CDC for noncompliance with the SUP.

“I do not believe that we should have to wait until after June 30 to impose fines,” said Vice Mayor Redella S. “Del” Pepper. “I think we should make it well worth their while to get this tunnel built as soon as possible.”

Sanctions for not completing the pedestrian tunnel under Duke Street were discussed at the Sept. 9 Council meeting and again Tuesday night. City Manager Philip Sunderland recommended a number of mitigations and resorting to a $5,000-per-day fine only if CDC did not complete the tunnel by June 30.

“The goal here is to get this tunnel built in as expeditious a manner as possible,” he said.

While Council members agreed, they differed as to the method. “I think we should impose fines beginning on Jan. 1,” said Councilman Andrew Macdonald.

Mayor William D. Euille disagreed. “Why would we impose fines when we already know that CDC cannot complete this work on Jan. 1?” he asked.

Pepper suggested tying the fines to construction benchmarks. “Since we are going to get monthly updates, why can’t we set goals for CDC, and if they don’t meet them, impose the $5,000 fine?” she asked.

Sunderland said he disagreed with this proposal. “I have given you my recommendation,” he said. “However, as the city attorney has told you, you can do anything you want.”

CDC HAS AGREED to pay for the cost of running a shuttle from the new U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices (PTO) at Carlyle to and from the King Street Metro station every five minutes. They have also agreed to pay for the cost of stationing police officers at key intersections that pedestrians will use to travel from Metro to PTO.

PTO offers incentives for employees to use Metro and disincentives for driving. The cost of a parking space is $100 per month, and employees who use Metro receive a $100 fare subsidy each month. Also, staff members can set their own hours, beginning at 5:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. Close to 50 percent of the nearly 4,000 employees are expected to use mass transit.

“We certainly hope that those PTO employees who drive will use the flexibility that the agency provides and drive at a time other than during peak hours,” Sunderland said. “We need to prepare for the worst but hope that we will be pleasantly surprised.”

Councilman Ludwig Gaines had a different issue. “Since I believe that the Planning Commission is the only body that can properly amend special-use permits, I do not believe that this is properly before us,” he said.

City Attorney Ignacio Pessoa disagreed. “The applicant is not requesting an amendment to the special-use permit,” he said. “By not completing the tunnel by Jan. 1, the applicant is in breach of the terms of the special-use permit. He will remain in breach of those terms until the tunnel is completed. He is not asking for an extension. Council is simply negotiating mitigations.”

In the end, Pepper’s motion was approved, and staff must now set benchmarks for CDC’s contractor to meet or face $5,000-per-day fines. PTO will receive a certificate of occupancy for Buildings C and E and the parking structure, and the first staff members are expected to move in sometime in early December.