What had become “a barrier between the stream and the adjacent neighborhoods” was hailed last Thursday night as a catalyst between Alexandria City and Arlington County that “has brought forth a wonderful result.”
That was the assessment of Eileen Fogarty, director, Department of Planning and Zoning, to the Alexandria Planning Commission during her introduction of a proposed amendment to the City Master Plan to add the Four Mile Run Restoration Master Plan. Four Mile Run corridor is envisioned as a future “model of urban ecological restoration,” according to the recommendation.
“This master plan will bring us a great area for both communities to come together,” said Kirk Kincannon, director, Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities. “But, it could not have come forward without the cooperation of all parties.”
Kincannon gave particular praise to the work of Judy Guse-Noritake, chair, Alexandria Parks and Recreation Commission, for her role in coordinating the combined efforts of the two jurisdictions. In her recounting of the history of the Four Mile Run Project to date, Noritake acknowledged that the local communities had received a major financial boost through the action of U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8) in securing a $1 million grant.
In a February letter to Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille and City Council, Noritake said, “It is our [the Commission’s] hope that this mater plan will guide the innovative development of recreational and natural features long this waterway. This project area represents a large and important section of the Green Crescent identified in the city’s Open Space Master Plan.”
However, during the Planning Commission meeting she told the Commissioners, “The real challenge lies ahead. We are going to have to work real hard to make this happen.”
The endorsement by the Parks and Recreation Commission was echoed by Danielle Fidler, chair, Environmental Policy Commission. “The Environmental Policy Commission wholeheartedly endorses the [Four Mile Run] Master Plan and applauds the efforts by all those associated with developing the Master Plan.”
One of the parties that will be playing a major role in implementing the plan will be the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In evaluating the proposal, Col. Robert Davis, district engineer, for the Corps conveyed his enthusiasm in a letter dated March 3, to Eullie.
“As a stakeholder in the process, the Corps of Engineers embraces this opportunity to marry our traditional focus of flood protection with our evolving mission of ecosystem restoration. This Four Mile Run master plan establishes a new benchmark for transforming a local flood protection project into a vibrant community asset,” he said.
PROJECTED AS a long range endeavor it is expected to take up to 20 or 30 years to implement due primarily to the magnitude of its cost estimated at $261 million. This excludes an additional $94 million “for undergrounding of power lines,” according to the staff report.
As noted in that report, “The adoption of this plan does not commit the City of Alexandria or Arlington County, to fund this Master Plan but provides a roadmap through the guiding principles and conceptual design options to use as opportunities to gain funding, as funding possibilities arise, and as redevelopment occurs within the corridor.”
Elements of the plan provide “guidance for stream restoration, future recreation, the placement of new public infrastructure and the replacement of existing infrastructure. The Master Plan discusses a variety of funding sources and strategies, ranging from local funds to state/federal grants and matching funds to public/private partnerships,” the report said.
Eight key elements were used to develop the plan, according to staff. They were: Flood protection; Environmental factors to create a dynamically stable stream channel; Aesthetics and design; Recreation and urban life; Achieving an integration and balance with the overall watershed; Create a place for people to reconnect with water and nature; Provide interpretive opportunities for education; and Create a plan that provides for changes as opportunities become available.
“The Master Plan for Four Mile Run transforms the corridor by incorporating improvements in environmental quality, open space amenities, transportation options and improving the overall quality of urban life within the near-stream area,” the report stated.
Implementation of the plan will commence with a demonstration project. A total of $3.3 million has been set aside for this, according to staff.
Overall, the plan is intended to restore roughly two miles of the nine-mile long stream that runs from Falls Church to the Potomac River. The lower portion, from I-395 to the river is contained in a hardened flood channel and marks a rough boundary between Alexandria and Arlington County. The channel was constructed by the Corps in the 1970 following Hurricane Agnes after that storm resulted in severe flooding.
The proposal to amend the City Master Plan to incorporate the Four Mile Run Plan was adopted unanimously by the Planning Commission.
IN OTHER ACTION, the commission approved a special use permit to expand Los Tios Restaurant, 2615-2617 Mount Vernon Ave., and another change of ownership of the restaurant at 1225 Powhatan St., known as Ruffino’s. The latter is best known by its long-standing previous name as Alexandria landmark, “The Dixie Pig.”
* Formally adopted the Eisenhower East Small Area Plan Design Guidelines which “further refine the urban design principles and establish the general requirements to achieve high- quality, public spaces, streets and buildings” in the Eisenhower Station and South Carlyle neighborhoods.
* Recommended approval of a text amendment to Article 11 of the Zoning Ordinance requiring independent, third party review of traffic studies submitted as part of certain developments applications. The proposal was in response to a City Council request to ensure “that traffic impact studies submitted by applicants are objective and properly prepared,” according to the staff report. “Today, for every SUP there is a traffic and parking study,” Fogarty told the Commission. “We are proposing to bring in an independent professional,” said Thomas Culpepper, deputy director for transportation, Department of Transportation & Environmental Services.
* Unanimously re-elected Eric R. Wagner, chairman, and John Komoroske, vice chairman, of the Commission for 2006.