Alexandria: Old Colony Inn Faces Setback

Alexandria: Old Colony Inn Faces Setback

Developer and neighbors go toe-to-toe over hotel expansion.

Local residents and several members of City Council attend the July 21 Old Colony community presentation.

Local residents and several members of City Council attend the July 21 Old Colony community presentation. Photo by Vernon Miles.


Catharine Puskar, an attorney for CIA Colony Inn LLC, presents Colony Inn plans to local residents.


The center of the this alley forms the official divide between the Old Colony Inn from the nearby residents.


The Old Colony Inn in Old Town North

The Old Colony Inn in North Old Town off of the George Washington Parkway has a major upgrade planned. The two-story Best Western Hotel is planning to double its height and expand to include a restaurant on the corner.

At a community meeting held in the Old Colony Inn on July 21, representatives from the developer, CIA Colony Inn LLC, presented the new plans for the building’s architecture. However, because the property abuts a nearby residential zone, it requires a setback on a one-to-one scale with its height. While local residents have other concerns about the building, many have begun to realize that the setback is their best chance at fighting the development.

The development plans were initially unveiled at a June 17 Board of Architectural (BAR) review meeting. The BAR deferred its approval of the project until after the developer had met with local citizens to address their concerns. The staff report on the project found that it was in keeping with the scale and character of the neighborhood, even before the reductions shown at the community meeting. The BAR members, however, weren’t as confident. In response to criticism from the BAR and several citizens present at the meeting, Catharine Puskar, an attorney for the CIA Colony Inn LLC presented the reduced-scale buildings to the community.

The largest change was the scaled back fourth floor, which now consists of terraces and fewer rooms on the top floor. The chimneys and gables were also removed to slim down the building’s profile.

However, while some in the audience expressed approval of the new project, others were not as enthusiastic.

“I really didn’t see any compromise on most issues,” said Ken Adam.

“It’s not perfect,” said Puskar. “Some people just don’t want a hotel, but we’re trying to listen… There were a lot of issues at the BAR, and we’ve done our best to address those. We focused on changing the mass and scale.”

However, the issue with the setback remains. While it was raised at the BAR meeting, the development is requesting a modification from the Zoning Board, which next meets on Sept. 10.

According to Maya Contreras, an urban planner for the Department of Planning and Zoning, whenever a commercial zone abuts a residential zone, one of the protections for the residences is the setback. The distance must be at least 25 feet or equal to the height of the building at its outermost level. Contreras says there are frequently modification requests in Old Town. If granted, the projects are then analyzed to minimize the impact on the nearby residences.

“The setback is the big issue,” said local resident, Morrill “Bud” Marston. “All of the comments stem from not having enough of a setback.”

Marston says he has a lot of concerns about the project, like the additional noise or the loading and offloading of the truck for the restaurant in the very narrow alleyway behind the property, but Marston says the setback issue is the most clear obstacle for the added development to the Old Colony Inn.

With its confined location, development would be unlikely to continue if he project cannot receive a modification. If the building is moved forward, it risks compromising its parking, as well as forcing the developer to demolish more and rebuild part of the property. Puskar says the plans are being resubmitted for review by the BAR in September and then to the Planning Commission and City Council in the winter.