To the Editor:
It turns out that the City of Alexandria is a master of con jobs. A little background before we start.
In 1880, The Old Dominion Boat Club came into existence on the Alexandria waterfront. In 1923, the club purchased its current building at 1 King St. and, some years later, purchased the property at 2 King St.
In the 1970s, it was determined by the U.S. Department of the Interior that the Federal Government owned all of the Alexandria waterfront. Over the next few years, they coerced most of the land owners to agree to a settlement and then gave the property to the City of Alexandria with some stipulations. At that time, the ODBC chose to fight this move and filed a suit in Federal court. In 2004, the case was settled in favor of the ODBC.
During the 30-plus years between the filing of the lawsuit and its settlement, the City of Alexandria, although coveting the property of the ODBC, did nothing presuming that the Federal Government would win the case and hand the property over to the city. Hold this thought for later.
In 2006, the city (using Open Space Funds) purchased the Beachcomber property at the foot of Prince Street for $1.135 million. After eight years of trying, the city could do nothing with this blighted piece of property and was stuck with a dilapidated eyesore on the waterfront. Hold this thought for later.
The city owns a marina on the Potomac River, with its main pier being the A/B Dock opposite the Torpedo Factory Art Center. This marina is both too small and too expensive to maintain, resulting in a loss of money by the city every year. Hold this thought for later.
In 2011, the restaurant Virtue Feed and Grain opened in the building next to Wales Alley. At that time, the city leased half of Wales Alley to Virtue for outdoor dining. This was done despite the fact that the ODBC had an ingress/egress easement (dating back to 1978) through Wales Alley in order to allow the ODBC to get cars and boats to the ODBC parking lot, boat yard and boat ramp leading to the Potomac.
The ODBC brought suit against Virtue and the city to enforce its easement. After protracted legal hearings and two trips to the Virginia Supreme Court, the ODBC successfully maintained its easement. This outcome now leaves the city vulnerable to a lawsuit by Virtue over the loss of Virtue's outdoor seating. Hold this thought for later.
Now, the city threatens to take by condemnation the ODBC's parking lot, boat lot, boat ramp, south dock, ownership in the Strand, nine parking spaces next to Mai Tai Restaurant, and the easement through Wales Alley. However, recognizing that it would not be politically favorable to invoke eminent domain to secure these properties, the city opened negotiations with the ODBC over swapping the land, coveted by the city, for all the troubled parcels previously listed. Further, by forcing that these negotiations be done in 90 days (under the threat of eminent domain), the city has succeeded in the following trade:
The city gives up the Beachcomber property (a real problem for the city) and the A/B dock of the city marina (a money loser) and pays the ODBC $5 million. In exchange, the city acquires the ODBC's property at 2 King St., the ODBC ownership in the Strand, the ODBC's ownership in the nine parking spaces next to the Mai Tai Restaurant, the ODBC's easement through Wales Alley (removing a potential lawsuit), the ODBC's south pier, and as a bonus, the ODBC's Clubhouse at 1 King St. This is a total package probably worth in excess of $20 million.
What a great caper by the city. Give away all their problem properties and a paltry $5 million for the crown jewel of the Alexandria waterfront — the two properties at the foot of King Street.