To the Editor:
I am writing to support the compromise which Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg seeks regarding the waterfront plan, a compromise consistent with her campaign reminder that we all serve “as the temporary stewards of this national treasure called Alexandria.” Because of the increased pace of council activity on the waterfront issue, the public effectively has one big chance left to get involved: the public hearing on Saturday, March 16 beginning at 9:30 a.m. It is my hope that Vice Mayor Silberberg will formally introduce her compromise proposal that day, that it will be seconded to allow discussion, and that the public will be able to weigh in before the City Council’s historic vote.
Vice Mayor Silberberg argues that “the waterfront plan, while improved over time, is not visionary enough.” She seeks a compromise between the current waterfront plan, which calls for two medium-sized hotels, and a plan with no hotels at all. She advocates one small boutique hotel with no more than 100 rooms. She also envisions a small, permanent band shell in Oronoco Bay Park for weekend cultural gatherings, ending by 9 p.m.
There is much unnecessary misinformation around the waterfront issue these days, due in no small part to the accelerated nature of the council’s upcoming revote of the Waterfront Plan on March 16. After an extensive executive session on Feb. 12, the City Council told the city manager to move forward. The public found out about the council’s plans on Feb. 15, giving them only a month before the public hearing, specifically on the two text amendments.
Vice Mayor Silberberg’s call for compromise is consistent with the powerful statement of the Federation of Civic Associations, representing 11 civic associations. The Federation, despite incredibly short notice, voted unanimously to oppose the mayor’s amendment removing the citizens’ right to petition a zoning change. Vice Mayor Silberberg agrees that this amendment would affect not only the waterfront but any development plan.
Silberberg’s call for compromise is also wonderfully consistent with an important move in Alexandria’s recent political history, one that saw Council member Del Pepper act a year ago to get the waterfront plan scaled back from three to two medium-sized hotels. It is my hope that Council woman Pepper and others will second Silberberg’s call for compromise on Saturday, March 16 to allow, in the spirit of Robert’s Rules of Order, a simple discussion to take place. The public can attend the hearing or sign up to speak by calling the City Clerk’s office or going on-line. By watching the proceedings on cable TV, you can find out when your number is coming up, in case you cannot attend the hearing for the entire day.
It is true that we have been discussing the waterfront issue for a long time, but in a debate as important as this one, it is critical that we that we proceed to the finish line in a judicious and deliberate way, listening to all our Council Members, and to the calm and reasoned leadership embodied in Vice Mayor Silberberg’s compromise.
Helen R. Desfosses