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Alexandria Court Sides with City in Lawsuit Challenging Notification of Waterfront Plan

Three Alexandria residents and one Fairfax County resident brought suit questioning legal notice.

The Alexandria waterfront plan increases density from the existing 300,000 square feet of development to 800,000 square feet of redevelopment.

The Alexandria waterfront plan increases density from the existing 300,000 square feet of development to 800,000 square feet of redevelopment. Courtesy of the Alexandria Department of Planning and Zoning

Alexandria officials met the minimum standard for notification of a public hearing on the waterfront plan, according to a ruling this week by Alexandria Circuit Court Chief Judge Lisa Kemler.

The case was filed by three Alexandria residents and one Fairfax County resident who argued in court this week that the notice of a Planning Commission hearing did little more than state the names of the policies without giving any information about their content. City Attorney James Banks countered that in a small, compact and urban environment such as Alexandria, people already know about the public hearings.

“Let’s be frank,” said Banks. “There was no mystery as to what this was about.”

Banks noted that the first Planning Commission meeting on the waterfront plan had 34 speakers, one of whom was one of the litigants who filed the lawsuit. The second Planning Commission on the waterfront plan had 20 speakers, Banks said, one of whom was a litigant who filed the lawsuit. Attorney Chris Marston, who represented the four individuals who filed the complaint, argued that the city should have been required to publish a description of what was being considered rather than a list of the properties that were at issue.

“The city is required to give notice,” said Marston. “It requires that you give a general description.”

The legal question before the court was how much detail is required under the law. Kemler ruled that the city is legally required to give a “general description,” which has a less onerous standard than a “descriptive summary.” In the end, Kemler said, the city followed the minimum standard when it advertised the Planning Commission public hearing.

“This means that the city doesn’t have to tell us anything,” said Julie Crenshaw Van Fleet, one of the parties who brought the suit. “Citizens will have to guess.”