After hearing testimony for and against Virginia Paving at their Saturday public hearing, members of City Council decided that they needed more time to make a reasonable decision about future operations at the west-end asphalt plant. At issue is nighttime paving, which a representative from the company admitted has happened for more than 20 years — operations that City Attorney Ignacio Pessoa said violates the company's 1960 special-use permit. Owners of the asphalt plant are asking council to amend their permit to the plant to legally operate at all hours of the day and night, an extension that is bitterly opposed by neighbors but enthusiastically supported by employees of Virginia Paving.
“Our employees rely on nighttime work,” said Linda Bolton, a 20-year employee of the company, during the hearing. “Without these hours, many of our employees could not make it.”
But residents of Cameron Station, a community that was built in an industrial area of the west-end after the Army base was closed, complained about the noise of nighttime delivery trucks and the continuous smell of cooking asphalt. Although the plant meets the clean-air requirements of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard, they say that doesn’t mean that the air is necessarily healthy — and many of them said they feared the long-term consequences of breathing marginally contaminated air. Joe Bennett, vice president of the Cameron Street Civic Association, said he was pleased with the deferral because it would give members of the City Council more time to carefully consider their options — and the consequences of allowing the asphalt plant to be in continuous operation.
“Essentially, it would allow then to double their production,” Bennett said. “That’s unacceptable and outrageous.”
The City Council unanimously approved a motion to defer a decision on Virginia Paving’s special-use permit when they realized that the city’s Health Department hasn’t issued a formal opinion on the matter. They also wanted input from the school system because the plant is near Samuel Tucker Elementary School, where more than 600 children attend school on a daily basis. In addition to this, said Mayor Bill Euille, the council members and Cameron Station residents still had lingering questions about how the permit extension would work.
“There are still a lot of outstanding questions on this,” Euille said after the hearing was over. “We want to make sure that we take the time to make the right decision.”
When Mayor Bill Euille said that he doesn’t want people campaigning during public hearings at City Hall, he means it. On Saturday morning he chastised Jim Hurysz, an independent candidate for Congress who is challenging the reelection of U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8). Although Hurysz lives in Arlington, he frequently speaks at Alexandria City Council meetings — and each time, the mayor tells him not to campaign at City Hall.
“Oh, ah, OK, mayor,” Hurysz said. “But it is a statement of fact that I’m running for Congress.”
“Jim, you may not get there if you can’t follow the rules,” Euille said.
Later in the meeting, Councilwoman Del Pepper took a moment to applaud citizens for taking time out of a beautiful autumn Saturday to speak at the public hearing.
“It reminds me of why I ran for council in the first place,” said Pepper, who was originally elected in 1985.
“No campaigning in City Hall,” Euille interrupted.
A New Del Ray?
Folks say that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but there is such a thing as a free firehouse. City Council voted on Saturday to accept a developer’s proposal to build a new fire station in Potomac Yard at no cost to the city — Alexandria’s first new fire station since 1976. The mixed-use proposal includes affordable housing units over the station.
“I always believe that you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth and say no,” said Mayor Bill Euille.
The most controversial aspect of the proposal turned out to be the architectural future of Potomac Yard. Councilman Rob Krupicka said that he wanted to make sure that the development didn’t end up being a brick-laden copy of the colonial style building near the city’s waterfront.
“I don’t want Potomac Yard to feel like an extension of Old Town,” Krupicka said. “I want it to feel like an extension of Del Ray.”
Councilman Paul Smedberg disagreed.
“Personally, I don’t think that Potomac Yard should be an extension of anything,” Smedberg said. “We are creating a big, new neighborhood here.”