To the Editor:
Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, marked a day when Alexandria’s City Council members carried out their duties and obligations by gathering all of the facts regarding the Waterfront Plan, and coming to the decision to support the plan. The citizens of Alexandria will benefit from this decision for years to come.
As a founding member of Waterfront4All, we established a policy of sticking to the facts and the issues. In fact, the primary reason we formed the group was to counter the significant misinformation spread by the opponents of the City’s Waterfront Plan. In the Jan. 26 issue of the Gazette, Andrew Macdonald’s letter included several statements that continue the misinformation campaign. Andrew stated that the hearing was a sham, giving a false impression that the plan could still be changed. Just like not acknowledging the many changes incorporated into the plan from citizen input over the last three years. Changes were added to the plan at the hearing including a change from three hotels with 450 rooms to two hotels with 300 rooms. Apparently Andrew does not consider this a change. A one-third reduction in the hotels rooms is a major change.
Andrew also mentions, as he has before, that Alexandria is well below the minimum national average in open space per-capita. Having spent quite a bit of time unsuccessfully trying to find that national standard, maybe Andrew can assist me by providing me with the reference. I have also spoken with individuals who know this subject material and do not think such a standard exists. Trying to put some factual information on this point, I went to both Alexandria’s and Arlington’s budgets and explored the "Profile" sections. I felt comparing these two areas would be more meaningful than say, a national standard which would include municipalities of lesser population densities to the area of these two municipalities, in other words, more of an "apples to apples" comparison. Here are the facts from both locations in their 2011 budgets. Alexandria has 955.5 acres of open space and a population of 145,000 residents. This produces a ratio of 7 acres per 1,000 residents. Arlington has 1190 acres of open space and 212,000 residents for a ration of 6 acres to 1,000 residents. My understanding is that nationally all jurisdictions set their own standards based on demand, comparison, and availability of open space. There are no adopted national standards, but there are guidelines produced by NRPA (National Recreation and Park Association). Maybe that is what Andrew referenced. If not, please provide the reference. In addition, the argument is counterintuitive. You decry the lack of open space, but insist on acquiring the most expensive properties in Alexandria for parks, in an area that is already 150 acres or 40 percent parks. Hardly a logical tactic if the goal is to provide a balance of open space throughout the City of Alexandria. We all should feel good that previous City Councils acquired parcels along the waterfront when they were affordable making the current waterfront plan feasible. Andrew states that over 100 people spoke, which is pretty correct, with about a 50/50 split between for or against the plan. He characterized those who spoke in favor of the plan as mostly Chamber of Commerce and Waterfront4All members. Waterfront4All is a small group of citizens who recognize the tremendous opportunity presented to significantly improve the waterfront for all of our citizens and not a membership group. Some members of the Alexandria Chamber including its chair and chair-elect spoke in favor of the plan. Many who spoke in favor of the plan were individuals unknown to us and identified themselves as residents of all areas of Alexandria including Old Town, the West End, Del Ray, and Taylor Run. An especially interesting observation to me was that everyone who appeared to be under the age of 40 spoke in favor of the plan, something that portends the future of our City. And Andrew’s comment "The other half were citizens, who actually live here," shows that he ignored the 50 percent that spoke for the plan and live in and throughout the City. By adopting the plan, the City Council wisely avoided the CAAWP recommendations to purchase the 8.5 acres of warehouses, which would greatly impact all Alexandrians economically through increased taxes, and cause the delay of important capital projects throughout the city, hardly a fair proposition.
"The Mayor and Council had a chance to show leadership by helping the community", and they did just that.