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Letter: Unintended Consequences

To the Editor:

The city’s threat of taking the Old Dominion Boat Club’s (ODBC) parking lot through eminent domain has resulted in the two parties tentatively agreeing to a total land swap of essentially all of the boat club’s property for the Beachcomber property at the foot of Prince Street. What has resulted is a poorly thought out plan that will adversely affect others and cost both the city and the boat club additional revenues over the long run. Essentially the threat of eminent domain will produce a pejorative “domino effect” which is not in the best interests of the city, the ODBC or we the citizenry.

In its deal with the Boat Club, the city has given the piers (A and B Docks) behind the Torpedo Factory to the Boat Club, taking away those slips previously reserved only for pleasure boaters. They will no longer be accessible to pleasure boaters unless the Boat Club decides to build slips in their new location at the Beachcomber property. In addition, the remainder of the pleasure boats slips north of the Chart House will also disappear, as they will be replaced by commercial boat slips. Two of those are for the Dandy’s ships which are now docked at the future location of the ODBC’s parking lot and new piers, also known as Chadwick’s parking lot. Originally, the Waterfront Plan called for some new pleasure boat slips to be built off the new development at Robinson Terminal South. However, the builder EYA has no intention of building those slips. Therefore, if replacement slips are to be built for the 63 or so pleasure boaters it will cost the city at least $2 to $3 million dollars, maybe more. What is also lost here is the dollar infusion into the Alexandria economy by all the guests of the pleasure boaters which would be a significant loss in tax revenues. The flip side of all this is what will it cost the Boat Club to build its 55 slips? Probably in the same range as the city slips, meaning that the Boat Club will probably not have enough left out of the $5 million given to them in the land swap to cover the new slips. I have heard that estimates to build the 10,000-square-foot facility to replace the Beachcomber could be between $300- $600 per square foot or a top level of $4.8 million. Building the parking lot and boat ramp will also require an infusion of additional dollars. All this could mean a mortgage on the new Boat Club paid through assessments of the membership. The membership must be made cognizant of this and in turn be willingly prepared to fork over additional dues each month. The unintended consequences added to what we already know concerning this deal reads something like this: The city is now going to pay the Boat Club $5 million and also pay the Open Space Fund $2.5 million (the cost of the Beachcomber and one-third the parking lot opposite Chadwick’s). If pleasure boat replacement slips are to be built then add an additional two to three million to the tab. In addition, the construction of Fitzgerald Square, with its ice rink and fountain, and other amenities within the surrounding area where the boat club originally resided will cost several million dollars. All of this could potentially result in additional costs totaling around $12-15 million. In that case be prepared to add four or five cents onto your property taxes. Additionally, if the new metro station in Potomac Yard is approved along with a replacement sewer system built in Old Town, our property taxes could skyrocket up to 10-15 cents, maybe more. These unintended consequences are what gets you in the end.

Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet, Alexandria