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Letter: City Against Its Residents?

To the Editor:

The City of Alexandria has announced that it will appeal the ruling by the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) that the Planning Director overstepped her bounds by denying a citizen petition opposing the Waterfront Plan. This proves once again how haywire things have gotten in our town.

This action provides the spectacle of city officials using taxpayer money to go to court against a citizen board who were standing up for the rights of Alexandria citizens, all of them taxpayers. To make matters more expensive, the Council apparently does not trust our City Attorney and his office to do the job in court and thus the city will hire outside counsel for the work.

The City’s press release suggests that if the BZA ruling stands, supermajorities would be needed any time a text amendment is proposed. That plainly is a red herring. No one will think of going to all the work and trouble of an appeals petition for the normal text amendment. The text amendment in the Waterfront Plan, by contrast, opened up the area involved to massive development that bypassed normal rezoning processes. Since many residents were strongly opposed to the Plan and did the hard work to get signatures, a supermajority vote was appropriate.

City’s statement also contends that this move to the courts is “for the good of the entire city.” That also is questionable. The reversed Planning Director rulings, if they had been allowed to stand, would have vitiated in important ways the ability of citizens in other parts of Alexandria to make use of City code provisions that allow 20 percent of adjacent landowners to force a supermajority vote on a re-zoning. The good of the entire city was served by the BZA, not by the City’s going to court.

In short, the City Council and City Staff once again have set themselves against the people who put them in office and pay their salaries. The discontent rising among Alexandrians, as evident in the numbers of lawsuits and other actions to which citizens have been forced to resort, marks a city out of kilter. Alexandria officials need to get in touch with the people, not haul them into court and, for the privilege, ask them to pick up the check.

Jack Sullivan

Alexandria