Council Notebook

Council Notebook

Waterfront Rezoning Delayed

The Fat Lady has yet to sing an aria for the waterfront plan, and now the controversial upzoning has been put on hold. At least for now.

The turn of events took place late on Valentine’s Day, sending a love note of sorts to opponents of the proposal. At issue was a technical ordinance legally required to follow the public hearing vote on the small area plan. The legal document is usually a routine matter with council members adopting the document with little or no discussion.

But that would not be the way of the waterfront, would it?

City Attorney James Banks told council members they couldn’t approve the ordinance finalizing the upzoning because an appeal had been filed to a protest petition requiring a supermajority of six members are needed to pass the plan. Because only five members voted in favor of the proposal, the outcome of the appeal could change the outcome.

“This is a step toward victory,” said Boyd Walker, co-chairman of Citizens for An Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan. “The zoning is the irreversible part of the plan, so I’m happy that’s on hold for now.”

In a separate vote, council members approved an ordinance that amends the city’s master plan to include the waterfront plan.

“The council could easily continue to move forward with implementation of the master plan,” said Councilman Rob Krupicka. “It does mean that every applicant for any land use issues would have to come forward for a zoning amendment, but we do that in other small-area plans in the city.”

Two separate appeals have been filed with the Board of Zoning Appeals, and a separate action has been filed in the Alexandria Circuit Court.

A Raise and an Office

Do members of the Alexandria City Council deserve a raise? What about an office at City Hall? Both are questions that were raised Tuesday night, as the elected officials began scrutinizing spending priorities for the coming year.

Councilman Rob Krupicka suggested that council members should be paid more. At $27,500 a year, he said, Alexandria’s elected officials were the least paid in the region. It’s a salary that hasn’t changed in the last nine years. Krupicka also said it was time to increase the salaries for council aides, who make $21,400 a year.

“It is always politically difficult to talk about council pay,” Krupicka wrote in a memorandum outlining his position. “As an outgoing member of council, perhaps I can at least start the conversation.”

After Krupicka raised the issue Tuesday night, Councilwoman Alicia Hughes chimed in that she would like to see council members have offices at City Hall. Currently, only the mayor has an office in the building, although aides have cubicles on the second floor. Councilwoman Del Pepper said that would be a terrible idea because the offices would remain vacant while the elected officials are working their day jobs or out with constituents and the empty offices would make it look like they’re not working. Pepper also said council members once had offices at City Hall, but city officials complained because the elected officials were always pestering them about pet projects.

“Been there, done that,” said Pepper, who was first elected in 1985.

“That was more than 30 years ago,” responded Hughes.

“Yes,” Pepper shot back. “And the reasons haven’t changed.”

Summertime Hangovers

One organization that will be getting a raise is the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The regulatory agency is set to receive a check for $280,700 from GenOn, which owns a coal-fired power plant on the Alexandria waterfront. Last week, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board issued a consent decree citing the plan for exceeding nitrogen oxides limit six times last summer. The fine represents the largest fine imposed against the plant, which is set to close in October.