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Votes

Letter: Fight To Save Waterfront Continues

To the Editor:

Three citizens who filed a Protest Petition on behalf of over 200 waterfront homeowners and commercial property owners along the Potomac River have won their first victory. The Council was forced to delay a second required vote to rezone the waterfront at their meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 14 until an appeals board reviews the matter later this spring.

The three ladies — known affectionately now as the Iron Ladies of the Waterfront — were notified last Friday by the Planning Director that their second attempt to appeal what many consider to be an unlawful Council vote on Jan. 21 had finally cleared the “procedural” hurdles that had been placed in their way to block citizen opposition to the current waterfront plan. The result is that the Council cannot vote to approve the rezoning amendment that would have opened the door to “boutique” hotels and higher density development along the Potomac at several historically important sites until the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) hears their latest appeal.

In what can only be called a Kafkaesque planning process, citizens who filed a Protest Petition on Jan. 19 were told on Jan. 21, the day of the public hearing and vote, that their Protest Petition was invalid, and that they could not appeal the decision to the Board of Zoning Appeals because City Hall was “closed for business” that day. This last-minute determination by Planning Director and City Attorney James Banks enabled the City to vote on the plan that day. More importantly, this decision — which many consider to be unlawful — allowed the Council to ignore the requirement that a supermajority of the Council members (6 or greater) had to vote in favor of the plan in order for it to be approved.

In the end, the euphemistically named waterfront plan that is the “fantasy script ” for the rezoning changes passed by a vote of only 5-2. Frank Fannon and Alicia Hughes were the only two council members to vote no. Mayor Bill Euille, Vice Mayor Donley, and Council members Krupicka, Smedberg, and Pepper all voted yes.

Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan (CAAWP) believe that protest petition is valid and that supermajority of the City Council had to vote in the affirmative for the rezoning change to pass.

If you thought that the City had finally decided to change direction and actually listen to the community — think again.

On Tuesday, Council still voted on the other part of this spot planning, waterfront redo — a document called the Waterfront Plan. The Waterfront Plan however is neither a plan nor a vision for the waterfront. It is a weak set of guidelines that gives developers unfettered control over the nature and scale of waterfront development. It doesn’t even include the GenOn Power Plan site, which is well within the waterfront planning boundaries. This vote, like all the others that preceded it, illustrates the PR game that the City has been playing with the community for the last three years.

CAAWP is confident that the citizens who submitted this Protest Petition and subsequent appeal(s), on behalf of everyone in Alexandria who opposes the City’s waterfront plan, will ultimately prevail in their efforts to overturn the Jan. 21 vote. CAAWP will be supporting the Iron Ladies’ efforts at every turn and we hope you will too.

The vision for the waterfront, indeed the vision for the West End, can be summed up quite simply: money $.

Andrew Macdonald