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Letter: Another Done Deal

To The Editor:

It is no surprise to the residents of the Beauregard section of the West End that the Mayor/council and city staff are once again pulling another “done deal” in our neighborhood and that the push for a major redevelopment in this area is a result of the BRAC-133 and loss of property tax dollars. When the non-appointed citizens group was formed about a year ago, we rarely discussed the major issues that are now being put together in a working draft plan by the Planning & Zoning Department.

Unfortunately, the discussions we are now having with city staff did not happen with the citizens group and all we did was to submit comments, not recommendations, to city staff, i.e., TES, P&Z, Housing Department and Assistant City Manager Mark Jinks. Mayor Euille has publicly stated at a council meeting two months ago that he and council were not rushing this plan through. Well, you could have fooled us who have been involved for the past year. The plan will now come in front of the Planning Commission on May 3. The transportation commission will meet on May 2 and one of the agenda items will be the BSAP wherein they will probably take a vote to forward their recommendations onto the Mayor/Council without hearing the specific issues that are not included by city staff impacting the cost and transportation issues impacting the Beauregard neighborhood plan.

Once again, this “transportation advisory group” that was established and appointed by the Mayor and Council on April 12, 2008 will be another “rubber stamp” for our elected officials. Many citizens involved with the BSAP for the past year have been told we cannot speak at the May 2 transportation meeting. Remember, this is only a working draft plan, not a recommendation and yet the so-called transportation commission will be voting to recommend whatever TES Director Rich Baier and Assistant Director Abi Lerner tell them to do in order to rubber stamp this plan for the Mayor and Council. It’s not as if we have been working on this plan for three-plus years even though the idea for the Beauregard plan had been initiated in 2009, but nothing resulted from this discussion. There is a memo dated June 2009 from former City Manager Jim Hartman to mayor/council/AEDP requesting grant money from DoD in order to get the Beauregard plan started. It sounds familiar to the memo of 2008 signed by Assistant City Manager Mark Jinks stating that Alexandria welcomes BRAC-133 be it at the Victory Center site or the Mark Center. With the Mark Center site selection as recommended by Mr. Jink’s 2008 memo, there is no metro, is now located in a residential neighborhood, but “come on in DoD, we have everything you need at the Mark Center/Duke Realty properties.” A done deal? You bet — without citizen knowledge or input until it was too late.

Citizens are getting tired of hearing from our elected officials and city staff that “we hear you and we’re listening to your concerns because we care about your neighborhood and Alexandria.” Really? If that were true, then they would not be pushing the Beauregard Plan and pretending to care about all the residents who live in the Beauregard neighborhood. There is much work to be done and now that five developers have become involved with this plan, this neighborhood will become a massive redevelopment and lose the character its residents want. We will now have an homogenized neighborhood similar to Clarendon, Shirlington and Ballston. I have lived on both sides of the West End. The Duke Street side, known as Condo/Canyon, is a neighborhood mix of condos and apartments along with some industrial use. The Beauregard neighborhood is a cultural mix of single-family homes, town homes, apartments, open space, trees and now, of course, BRAC-133. Most of us, myself included, believe we do need some improvements in our neighborhood, but not the major redevelopments proposed by the five developers. There needs to be more specifics about funding and financing, a real transportation plan that excludes a traffic circle at the intersection of Seminary/Beauregard, elimination of BRT lanes on Beauregard and good planning regarding land use, zoning/rezoning, retail, commercial and residential and affordable housing. The continuation of the working draft changes from day to day without clearly defined guidelines and criteria. It’s the developers, elected officials and city staff creating our neighborhood without an honest attempt to “hear what we want” and one that will initially involve large Alexandria taxpayer commitments. It is time for our elected officials to start doing what they were elected to do and that is represent all of Alexandria residents and not their own personal agendas. We all know that Mayor Euille and members of council want this plan passed before the November elections. However, the BSAP needs much more time for specific questions, answers and discussions from citizens who will be most impacted by this major redevelopment if it is going to succeed. Another “done deal” from city hall? You can count on it.

Annabelle Fisher

Alexandria