A Challenging Assessment

A Challenging Assessment

Don’t like your real-estate assessment? There are ways to challenge it, of course. And if the folks at City Hall don’t give you the answer you want, there’s always the legal route. You can take ’em to court.

Take LCOR Alexandria LLC, for example. That’s the limited-liability company that owns the land where the United States Patent and Trademark Office is located. In a civil-court case now making its way through the city courthouse, LCOR is charging that the city overstated the 2004 property assessment of the land at the heart of the Carlyle neighborhood. The dispute over property values highlights the sluggishness of redevelopment in the area of condos, office space and retail, area where City Council members recently approved a Starbucks yet they can’t seem to get a white-tablecloth restaurant to submit a special-use permit.

City Attorney Ignacio Pessoa said that he is confident that the city will prevail.

“At the same time they are saying to the court that the property is overassessed by $156.8 million, they had values higher than the city’s assessment posed on their Web site and they received offers to buy the property at more than the assessed values — which they turned down,” said Pessoa. “So in the view of the city, this case has no merit.”


What’s In a Name?

Councilwoman Del Pepper is chairwoman of one of the city’s most little-known but important institutions: the Naming Committee. During a Tuesday night meeting at City Hall, she presented a plan to name the new soccer field behind George Washington Middle School in honor of the Swanson family — a household that includes Sandy Swanson, who has been involved in Alexandria soccer for more than 30 years, and the late Kelley Swanson, the teenage soccer star who mentored children with disabilities.

“The Swanson family really reminds us about what public service really means,” said Pepper before the unanimous vote of approval for the idea.

Pepper made another recommendation involving renaming Waterfront Park in honor of Col. John Fitzgerald, who was mayor of Alexandria from 1786 to 1787: Her proposal: postpone it. The Fitzgerald effort has been the pet project of local restaurateur Pat Troy since 1990. And although the proposal was delayed, Troy saw the deferral as a victory of sorts.

“At least they didn’t say no,” said Troy. “I’m so used to having the idea rejected.”


Example of the Future

During their Saturday public hearing, City Council members approved a building that City Manager Jim Hartmann calls “an example of the future.” The imaginative design incorporates a fire station, affordable housing, retail space and underground parking. And, unlike so many buildings in Alexandria, it does not take a “phony colonial” approach.

“When this concept first evolved, I personally was not excited about it and I though we were wasting a lot of time with it,” said Mayor Bill Euille. “Who would ever think of a fire station as being the landmark in a particular area?”

The Potomac Yard Fire Station, which is 70 feet tall, has a 24,800 square foot fire station, 64 residential units, 1,500 square feet of retail space and 9,100 square feet of open space. Potomac Yard LLC, which is developing the site, donated the land and contributed $12 million toward the project. Council members praised the innovative design, which they hope to see on magazine covers of the future.

“There’s a lot of stuff that has been built in Old Town that we won’t appreciate 50 years from now,” said Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald. “But this is a building that we will appreciate 100 years from now.”


Hasty Exit

Brian Hannigan, the city’s spokesman, unexpectedly resigned from the city manager’s office last week. When asked about the sudden departure, Steve Mason — the city manager’s special assistant who will be handling communications until the position is filled — gave a curt response.

“I don’t know where he went, and I don’t care,” said Mason during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Hannigan held the job for just under a year, a job he took when the Virginia Baseball Authority folded and no longer needed his services as communications director. He took a job in Washington working for Smith, Dawson and Andrews, a government-relations firm whose clients include the city of Seattle, Northrop Grumman and the embassy of Japan.

“It just didn’t turn out to be as good a fit as everybody had hoped,” said Hannigan. “I have the utmost respect for the city manager, the mayor and all the staff. And I hope those feelings are mutual.”