To the editor:
Kudos to Mark Mueller who, in a recent opinion piece (Old Town Gets Trampled, June 17, 2010), highlighted the congestion caused by tour bus traffic in the waterfront area, the lack of parking enforcement and the obvious lack of revenues generated by that traffic with local businesses.
Readers of that article, and Mr. Mueller, will be pleased to know that his pleadings did not fall on deaf ears! On June 28, I went to the City of Alexandrias Traffic and Parking Board public hearing. I found it very interesting when Board Member Amy Slack referenced Mr. Muellers article in reference to congestion and to a motion before the board to weigh in on whether or not traffic on Wales Alley should be East Bound or West Bound.
It appears that the TPB is more sensitive to issues surrounding the decision-making process than is the City Council, which decided in a previous session to support making Wales Alley into a one-way street with outdoor seating for one of the local restaurants. (I question why the alley issue was not referred to the TPB before the Council approved the Special Use Permit.)
Clearly, as pointed out by members of the TPB, the ramifications of City Councils decision were not given sufficient consideration, especially in light of bus and traffic congestion and the negative impact on the Alexandria Fire Department and Homeland Security access to the only viable boat ramp in the area, which they use for both emergencies and training exercises.
As a result, the motion was tabled by the TPB in favor of resolving these and other issues. It is clear that whatever happens, bus traffic will likely be restricted or eliminated from Wales Alley. On a personal note, I was very disappointed to see that the mature trees in Wales Alley are planned to be torn down to make way for a raised eating area, per the design documents, if this action proceeds.
It is obvious that the City Council is interested in making Old Town more attractive to visitors, but at what cost? Lets not lose sight of the fact that, first and foremost, Old Town should be for those who are stakeholders in the city those who work and live here.
Can the city actually justify the adverse effects of their decisions versus the intended revenues they hope to generate? The city should not restrict the use of Wales Alley to benefit a single developer and they should be clear on who has the responsibility for paying for the modifications. What monetary value do they place on quality of life? Can they justify exacerbating the vehicle and pedestrian traffic congestion that already exists? And please, lets not forget to keep Old Town Green. Take care of the waste and disposal issues and keep the trees!