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Council Notebook

Gag Order

Mayor Bill Euille is asking his colleagues on the City Council to refrain from answering questions about where they think the Potomac Yard Metro should be located. The gag order comes as city officials consider three different options for the $240 million station.

The first two options would sit astride the tracks, one at the northern edge of Potomac Greens townhouses and the other at the southern edge of Potomac Yard shopping plaza. The third option is an elevated Metrorail line similar to the one planned for Tysons Corner that would be constructed at the southern edge of the existing shopping plaza, which is expected to be demolished during redevelopment.

Which option does your elected official support?

“The press may want to press members of council,” explained the mayor, adding he’s already received inquiries. “That’s not a position for us to be taking at this moment.”

First Night Fireworks

A few years ago, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law aimed at increasing safety during fireworks displays by creating setback requirements. Since then, Alexandria’s annual First Night celebration has been without fireworks. Organizers have tried to find other ways to ring in the New Year, the most recent of which sent thousands of Ping-Pong balls scattered across the lawn at the George Mason Masonic Temple. Fans of First Night appreciate the effort, but nothing compares to a display of fireworks.

Next year, says Vice Mayor Kerry Donley, things will be different. Fireworks will be returning to First Night, he promised.

“The setbacks make fireworks at the Masonic Temple just impossible,” said Donley. “So we are looking for some other way of doing fireworks.”

Single or Multi?

Should Alexandria be a city of single-occupancy vehicles driving to single-family homes? For decades, city officials have been trying to move away from that model, approving high-density development and encouraging public transportation. Recent Census records seem to indicate the efforts have changed the demographic profile of the city, showing a shift of more people using public transportation and fewer residents using a single-occupancy vehicle to get to work.

“This is not just a bunch of statistics,” said Planning Director Faroll Hamer. “You have people moving here specifically because they don’t want to commute by car.”

Hamer says the new Census information can be used in a wide variety of ways — determining when new schools should be constructed, calculating response times for public-safety officers and projecting market demand for various kinds of housing. Since Alexandria has been moving in the direction of multi-family residence in multi-use buildings, planning officials say, the effort has attracted people looking to escape the suburban lifestyle. Projections call for the city population to increase about 1 percent a year over the next decade.

“It’s a healthy rate of growth, and it keeps the city renewing itself from within,” said urban planner Pat Mann. “But it’s not something that rapidly overpowers municipal services.”

Film Festival

The mayor’s State of the City address was once a grand affair, with hundreds in attendance and major announcements. Now it’s become a YouTube video linked to the city’s website. This year’s installment was premiered at the end of Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, although the event lacked a red carpet or paparazzi. Councilman Paul Smedberg joked that people may be tempted to leave.

“Lock the doors,” he declared with a smile.