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Week in Alexandria: June 4

Slip Displeasure

— What is the future of pleasure boats on the waterfront? That's a question that has yet to be resolved. It's an uncertainty that's leaving pleasure-boaters, well, displeased.

At issue is the deal city leaders recently struck with the Old Dominion Boat Club. The arrangement allows the Boat Club to determine whether or not it wants to build a marina at its new spot at the foot of Duke Street. If the club constructs a marina there, Boat Club members would dock their vessels in slips at the club. But if they decide not to construct a marina at the foot of Duke Street, according to the agreement, members will be able to use the city slips at the Torpedo Factory. That would evict the boats there now, considerably narrowing the number of pleasure boat slips along the waterfront.

"We are ambassadors for the city," David Hammond told members of the Planning Commission this week. "People like to walk up and down the docks, and what do they look at? The names on the boats."

Hammond, who owns a boat at the city marina, says he loves to talk to people who stroll up and down the docks. Many are attracted to his vessel, named "Could Have Had Pearls."

"And yes," he told Planning Commission members. "That has implications with my marriage."

But what happens if he loses his slip as a result of the waterfront plan? That's yet to be determined. His wife may get pearls after all.

Activating the Waterfront

Consultants who are planning the landscape architecture of the new waterfront like to talk about "activating" the space by adding stuff for people to do. Perhaps the most controversial way of activating the waterfront is the proposed ice rink at the foot of King Street. Some believe it will provide the kind of excitement that surrounds the Sculpture Garden outside the National Gallery of Art. Others believe it will be out of place, an expensive eyesore that will occupy public funds for maintenance.

"Please don't make a representation to me that people are clamoring for this," said Old Town resident Bob Wood, a former member of the waterfront work group. "This is a solution in search of a problem."

Planning Commission member Nate Macek, also a member of the late work group, disagreed.

"What we lack now is anything meaningful to do in the winter," said Macek. "If you go down to the waterfront in January or February, it's a ghost town."

Consultants offered a variety of potential ways to activate the waterfront — fire pits, outdoor movie screens, bocce ball courts, movable shade structures and waterfront festivals. Whatever city leaders decide to do with the waterfront, it seems like one feature will remain absent.

"How about we put a condition on here," observed Planning Commission member Derek Hyra, who is running for Congress. "No ferris wheels."

Primary Colors

This weekend, Republicans from across Virginia will be gathering in Roanoke for a convention to select the party's candidate to run against incumbent Sen. Mark Warner. Unlike Democrats, who almost always use a primary to select statewide candidates, Republicans prefer conventions. The party has used primaries only eight times in the last 100 years to select statewide candidates. The theory is that it saves the candidates money because they don't have to spend getting the nomination. But University of Mary Washington professor Stephen Farnsworth says it's a problem for the party.

"Someone as conservative as Bill Bolling wouldn't even go through a convention process because of the belief that Ken Cuccennelli had it sewn up," said Farnsworth. "If Bill Bolling had been the Republican nominee he probably would be governor today."

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie will face three challengers in Roanoke.

"It would seem likely that Gillespie is going to sew up the nomination," said Geoff Skelley, analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "It does seem like Gillespie and his campaign has done a very good job of making sure that they are going to have a lot of delegates at this thing."