Council Votes for an 'Extraordinary' Plan
The city's quest to increase affordable housing prompted an emotional discussion at the City Council meeting Tuesday night, as council members debated over how specific a provision in the Hunting Creek Area Plan should be. With the massive Woodrow Wilson Bridge being built immediately to the north, the future of the Hunting Creek area is at stake.
Council members ended up approving a provision that requires potential development projects to provide for "extraordinary affordable housing." Councilman Andrew Macdonald said that this was too vague and offered a motion to require a developer to set aside 50 percent of any future project for affordable housing at the site.
J. Howard Middleton, who represents a developer interested in acquiring the property, started shaking his head when Macdonald made the suggestion. In a Sept. 16 letter to council members, he suggested that the plan should call for an "exceptional contribution' to affordable housing.
"Quite frankly, this is rushed,' said Councilwoman Joyce Woodson, who agreed with Macdonald that the plan should require a specific percentage of affordable housing.
Macdonald and Woodson voted against the plan that did not include a specific percentage of set-aside affordable housing.
Restaurants Agree to be 'Smoke Free'
The Alexandria Health Department is sponsoring a program that encourages restaurants to voluntarily adopt a "Smoke-Free Dining Policy.' So far, 73 restaurants have enrolled in the program.
"Waiters and waitresses have a 50 to 90 percent increased risk of lung cancer, most likely caused by tobacco smoke,' said Denise Yeager, a health educator, in a Tuesday presentation to council members about the program.
Councilman Ludwig Gaines and Councilwoman Joyce Woodson sent a memo in April to the city manager requesting that he work with staff to find a way to reduce smoking in restaurants.
"We live in a Dillon Rule state, and localities don't have the authority to ban smoking," Gaines said. "So we had to be creative in putting together a program that wouldn't go afoul in Richmond."
Asking restaurants to voluntarily participate in the program was the solution to the problem. City Council is offering some incentives to participants in the voluntary program, including publicity in newspaper advertisements featuring the restaurants. They will also be included in a "Smoke-Free Dinging Guide Brochure' that will be published in December.
"I've got to applaud the restaurants that have stepped up to do this," Gaines said. "We know what the studies show, and clearly second-hand smoke presents a serious health hazard."
Realtors Answer Mayor's Plea
On Tuesday, the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors presented a $10,000 check to Alexandria to help the city provide for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
"They wanted to do something to answer my call for folks to help out with hurricane relief efforts," said Mayor Bill Euille. "The intent was to help to help hurricane victims who are here in Alexandria."
The money will be used for food, shelter, clothing, rent and utilities for families who evacuated the Gulf Coast after the hurricane. It will be administered by the city's Department of Human Services.
"As of last Friday, we have 18 families. That represents about 45 individuals," said Debra Collins, director of the Department of Human Services. "This is a tremendous gift that we've received from the Northern Virginia Realtors Association."
The gift was a surprise to the mayor and city staff, who did not know until Tuesday afternoon that the association planned to make the donation.
"We are most appreciative of their contribution," Euille said.