Alexandria Council Notebook

Alexandria Council Notebook

Cursing Clerk? Never…

Alexandria Clerk of Court Ed Semonian is a kind of institution at the courthouse and in the city. He’s the longest-serving elected official currently in office, and he holds the record for longest serving elected official in the history of Alexandria.

First elected in 1979 after the death of Clerk of Court Frederick Jackson, Semonian defeated Democrat Ed Dadurka in a firehouse caucus and then faced no opposition that fall. He’s been reelected four times to the position, which has a term of eight years. This year, he’ll be packing up his office and retiring after four decades of overseeing an office that has outsized influence even if it often operates in the shadows.

“When I was asked to serve, I had never served in an elected office, although I had worked in some campaigns over the years,” said Semonian after the City Council presented him with a key to the city Tuesday night. “I made a commitment that if I was successful I would serve for two terms.”

He ended up doubling that commitment, serving an unprecedented five terms. Presenting him with a commemorative resolution at City Hall this week, council members and Circuit Court judges celebrated a man known for his quiet determination — an unflappably organized clerk who also had a quick wit and a warm heart. When a retired judge said he never heard Semonian lose his temper or utter a curse word, a current judge stepped in offer contradictory testimony.

“I’m a little embarrassed to say I have heard Ed use a curse word,” said Judge Jim Clark. “Maybe it was just me.”

Selling Public Land

The city government owns land all over the city, from Market Square in Old Town to city parks and facilities all over Alexandria. But what happens when a developer wants to buy some of that land? That’s a question now up for debate at City Hall.

At issue is a surface parking lot in the 900 block of King Street, currently the home of a BikeShare station and 85 parking spaces. That’s until Galena Capital Partners is able to purchase the city-owned property and develop 50 new residential units and several street level retail bays plus a “trophy retail tenant” with 6,700 square feet. It would also have an automated parking garage with 142 parking spaces. Galena wants to purchase the property for $5.3 million.

“I am not for the sale of any city property for private use,” said Councilman Mo Seifeldein, who cast the lone vote against the sale. “There could be much better public use for it either now or down the road.”

The Planning Commission will have to approve the sale, which is contingent on the City Council approving a development special-use permit to Galena.

Bring the Noise

Noise violations don’t keep banker’s hours.

That’s why city officials were considering a plan to hire a new nighttime zoning inspector, a roving city official who would work weekends and respond to noise complaints in real time instead of waiting for Monday morning. Zoning officials described the new nocturnal inspector as more proactive than reactive.

“So he’s looking for trouble,” observed Councilwoman Del Pepper.

Does the city really want zoning officials out at night looking for problems rather than manning their desks during the day to help businesses get permits so they can open? Probably not. The idea was quietly tabled Tuesday night.