To the Editor:
This past Friday, the Governance Subcommittee of the Waterfront Commission met at the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership’s (AEDP) headquarters in a work session led by Charlotte Hall, who is the Waterfront Commission chairwoman. There was no published agenda, and Stephanie Landrum answered almost all the numerous questions posed by the 30 or so citizens and business leaders who attended the meeting. Although she is not a member of the Waterfront Commission, she is apparently a member of the Governance Subcommittee, which is required to recommend which waterfront improvements outlined in the waterfront plan can be accomplished with non-city governmental generated funds, the impetus being that the current Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for the next 10 years has only half of the programmed $120 million for these improvements. In addition, an assumption was also made that operations and maintenance were also fully funded, which is not the case, so the validity of the entire plan is questionable.
Obviously selling the waterfront plan approved under the auspices of a “Waterfront for All” mantra didn’t materialize, because now the Governance Subcommittee is recommending that a Community Improvement District (CID) be established, which will impose an additional tax for all businesses. The boundaries are from Jones Point Park to Potomac Landing along the waterfront plan boundaries, and from the waterfront all the way up King Street to the Metro (includes one block either side of King Street) . All owners of business properties in that zone would be taxed. This concept is very much like the two special tax zones set up in Potomac Yard to fund the new Metro Station.
Of course, the affected property owners will pass this increase along to tenants, which will in turn pass the increase on to their customers. If raising funds for the “Waterfront for All” is so economically important to the city as a whole, then everyone living in the city should be taxed. It is very apparent that the governance of the waterfront should continue to run by our own city government and not by a business-elected body with taxing authority. What the city really needs is a "green eye shade" accounting review of the waterfront budget, down to limits that are reasonable and acceptable to all. The City of Alexandria should not wish to drive away further small businesses, and to impose taxes on only a part of the city when the entire city ostensibly stands to benefit. To do so is undemocratic, insulting, and unconscionable.
Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet