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Letter to the Editor: How Many Do-Overs Needed?

To the Editor:

I don't know what City Council was thinking when they rubber stamped the waterfront plan.

First of all, a few days earlier opponents had submitted another petition, which city hall rejected, so when the city attorney runs to the Supreme Court to say Saturday’s six-vote do-over moots the waterfront petition’s case, waterfront plan opponents will counter that Saturday’s vote was improper because the petition which would have stayed the proceedings was improperly rejected. What’s the Supreme Court to do but remand the entire matter back to a lower court for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the latest petition was improperly rejected? This is not the closure city hall had planned on … if anything, it’s an invitation to yet another do-over, of which this one was the second or third …. At some point, there could end up being so many do-overs folks will lose count and your newspaper will have to start retroactively renumbering each waterfront vote with Roman numerals.

Folks should understand that this is not just a wrangle between a city hall in thrall to development installed by electoral majorities garnered from neighborhoods far-removed from the waterfront and an obstreperous contingent of waterfront residents who don’t like their property rights being sacrificed on the altar of overdevelopment. It is instead every bit as much a wrangle between today’s City Council and the one of 20 years ago because the waterfront plan is so radically different from the one enacted two decades ago that, in essence, it says that today’s City Council believes that what yesteryear’s City Council did has failed to bring necessary improvements to the waterfront. A parade of past elected officials tried to tell City Council a year ago that City Council really knew what it was doing back then, only to be greeted with polite “we-know-best” indifference.

Vice-Mayor Allison Silberberg tried to give everyone an out by suggesting one hotel. One hotel makes sense. It allows for the impact of hotels on the waterfront to be fully gauged. If the one hotel is successful, then a decade hence a second could be allowed. This approach is respectful of past city councils because it is the smallest incremental change and it leaves to actual experience, rather than hubristic anticipation, whether waterfront hotels make sense.

A protracted legal battle poses perils for all concerned, but especially for city hall which might find itself in perpetual “do-over.” Had one of the potential six votes pressed waterfront plan opponents about whether they would withdraw their lawsuit if the plan were compromised down to one hotel, they would at least have put waterfront plan opponents in a bind whereby they either had to settle on the spot or appear intransigent. Instead, this hubristic six-vote city council majority let waterfront plan opponents off the hook and allowed them to ride into court — win or lose — as knights in shining armor protecting their historic waterfront and its beleaguered habitants from their avaricious government.

Dino Drudi

Alexandria