Opinion: Letter to the Editor: What’s Wrong with This Picture?

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: What’s Wrong with This Picture?

The scene is of a stag, named Buck Carrier, who is standing just back of our property in an ancient ravine soon to be destroyed by a developer with the help of local lawyers and city planners. The scene of this unique, forested, animal corridor behind Temple Beth-El on Seminary Road will change first, to an image of massive destruction of the natural woodland and ravine topography and then to a scene of four massive four-story homes with their new public street crammed onto a mere three acres newly named Karig Estates.

The story behind the scene is complicated. Planning and Zoning (P&Z) and the Planning Commission (PC) have approved a site plan. Those approvals are being appealed to City Council on the basis that the site plan has not adequately addressed two of the many interconnected, overarching and vital issues — risk of slope collapse on both sides of the ravine and risk of storm water overflows which will flood down-stream properties on Colonel Ellis Avenue and might even undermine planned foundations.

The presence of marine clay is a common denominator for both slope failure and ineffective stormwater management. Marine clay is the key risk factor at the construction site. Although Alexandria residents have long suffered slope collapse, water damage and foundation failures caused by marine clay, neither the developer, nor P&Z, nor the PC address the risk factors associated with construction atop marine clay.

Anthony Fleming, geologist and author of Alexandria’s Geologic Atlas, recently wrote: “The [developer’s] geotechnical report studiously avoids discussing the clay-related runoff potential from this site…. For context, a garden-variety hurricane or prolonged series of rain storms could generate as much as an acre foot (~329,000 gallons) of overland runoff from the site (post development), which would totally swamp the proposed Virginia Best Management Practices (BMP) features in the site plan not to mention the Colonel Ellis Avenue residents living below.”

It’s all about risk, folks. The developer, the lawyers, P&Z, and the PC do not mention the word “risk” because they are not taking risk or are accountable for negative outcomes that risks may bring. Do they expect taxpayers to unknowingly take on the proven risks of costly damages and reduced home values?

Let’s hope council will protect us by rejecting the present site plan. Good government means the council must lead its staff to protect its citizens from hidden risks and find ways to approve projects that first serve clearly stated interests of citizens, then the city and lastly, the developers.

Loren Needles


Alexandria Coalition for Responsible Stewardship