Letter: Nothing Settled

Letter: Nothing Settled

To the Editor:

It was a blast from the past to find former Council member David Speck in the Council Chamber at 9 a.m. on Jan. 21. He appeared to make the same arguments for more dense development that he made regularly during his years on City Council.

He is still singing the praises of the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and saying the traffic is not so bad. He describes his trip from Seminary Ridge early on a cold icy Saturday morning as taking 12 minutes. He should try living in Rosemont in the post-PTO era. I am retired now so usually I can time my trips to avoid week day rush hours. There was an occasion early on a week day morning when I was trying to get my very old, very sick dog to the emergency animal hospital on Duke Street. Sitting in the car waiting for a chance to cross major intersections was excruciating. I know residents who must commute by car experience these delays every workday.

Mr. Speck says we should all be happy to live in this environment because we are all paying less in real estate taxes than we would have other wise. No one would notice that if he did not tell us. Except in the immediate aftermath of the housing crash, my modest home east of Commonwealth Avenue has had a notable increase in its assessment every year and every year the tax bill has been higher. Our city government obviously depends on this and expects it. In the brief period when homes sales were stagnant and offered no basis for higher assessments, there was a major retrenchment in city government. In the wake of modest recovery, city officials seem to have returned to their old ways.

We can take comfort knowing that the proposed waterfront development does not have to follow the course the Patent and Trademark Office did. Alexandrians living in homes or owning businesses along the waterfront do have a recourse to the unreasoned rush to place much more dense development in the heart of what was the colonial sea port. It is unusual for many people to be already living and working with 300 feet of major redevelopment sites. Being within that 300-foot perimeter gives property owners the right to file a protest petition. Because they live in such close proximity, the zoning code confers special rights on them as adjoining property owners.

About 215 of those property owners have signed a protest petition, which requires the votes of six council members to over ride. Only five members (Euille, Donley, Pepper, Krupicka and Smedberg) voted for the rezoning on the waterfront. Two members voted against (Fannon and Hughes). The city attorney used a questionable legal argument (not lack of the correct number of signatures) to deny the validity of the petitions. Otherwise, the plan to do major up zoning in an already dense mixed-use environment would have failed already.

The petition signers intend to challenge the rejection of their petition at the Board of Zoning Appeals. Nothing is settled, nor should it be when a Council majority chooses once again to discount the quality of life of nearby residents in its decision-making process.

Katy Cannady