Alexandria waterfront planning has cost taxpayers about $1.1 million so far

Waterfront plan critics and supporters hotly disagree on the costs and benefits of their dueling visions for Alexandria’s shoreline, but the roughly two-year process has a price tag of its own: nearly $1.1 million so far.

Planning for the city’s proposed waterfront blueprint accounts for about half of the total figure. A further $424,522 was spent on a flood mitigation study and the city doled out roughly $50,000 for the Old Town Parking Study, two efforts related to the planning process.

And since city council in June opted to delay voting on the plan approved by the planning commission, an additional $17,800 has been spent on an outside consultant for the waterfront work group, a citizen committee handpicked by Mayor Bill Euille to reconcile criticisms of the blueprint. They are expected to present their findings to city council this month.

The official price tag for the plan omits the cost of labor for drawing up the blueprint, said Karl Moritz, deputy planning director. Two full-time planning and zoning department employees have been assigned to the project and they’ve drawn on the expertise of personnel in other departments to complete the work. He estimates having dedicating about half of any given workweek to the plan.

The money has been ill spent, said Andrew Macdonald, co-founder of Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan and an outspoken opponent of the city’s proposal. The group released a competing vision for the Potomac waterfront, which was planned by city officials but with some community input, in late October, emphasizing parks and cultural centers rather than commercial redevelopment.

If the city council doesn’t consider any of the alternatives to the current iteration of the plan, which calls for boutique hotels at three key sites along the waterfront, Macdonald believes members should forgo any final decision.

“We don’t believe they should be approving or adopting the plan the planning commission voted for,” he said. “We think there is an alternative [plan] they need to consider seriously. How they go about doing that is up to them.”

The commission-approved plan omits a detailed vision for the GenOn power plant site, which is now up for possible redevelopment after company officials announced plans to close the facility earlier this year. City officials also have not approached the Robinson Terminal Co., a subsidiary of the Washington Post Co., about acquiring two of the three sites mired in controversy.

Both need consideration before a final vote, Macdonald said.

“I don’t think it requires a lot of extra money and consultants,” he said. “I think we, as a community, in a month or two could come up with something.”

But barring a surprise from the waterfront work group, Euille doesn’t think a second delay is a possibility. The committee, drawn from a pool of candidates crafted by city council members, has spent four months trying to reconcile the plan with resident criticisms, he said.

“In fairness to [the waterfront work group], I’d rather wait until we get their report before I begin to believe we have to defer this again,” he said. “I think the timetable is pretty much set.”

City council is expected to vote on the plan soon after their January 21 meeting.

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Alexandria Times Staff

(7) Readers Comments

  1. I wonder why the mayor states “the timetable is pretty much set”. Who set it and why? What is driving the need for a vote on Jan 21?

  2. You forget the nice chunk of change they have spent in terms of the man hours consumed by their lawyers in chasing the Old Dominion Boat Club to the Virginia Supreme Court, over it’s Wales Alley easement. I wonder how much that has cost the taxpayer? Most likely a lot more than the $12,000/year their are receiving from Virtue Feed and Grain for their annual license.

  3. The mayor is probably saying this because he is running fo reelection, but this plan is not ready. Not even close. The city has not backed down one bit, and they have shown an unwillingness to work toward any compromise. Please go to http://www.alternativealexandriawaterfrontplan.com to learn more, and see the growing list of peole who are against the city’s rush to reach an irreversible decision.

    • Not true Boyd. The City has listened to citizens comments and has made several changes to the plan. See http://alexandriava.gov/uploadedFiles/planning/info/Waterfront/Ten%20Changes%20to%20the%20February%20Plan%20-%206.9.2011.pdf and http://dockets.alexandriava.gov/icons/pz/pc/CY11/050311/di2.pdf

      Speaking of a plan that is “not ready for prime time” , see the staff analysis of teh CAAWP plan at http://alexandriava.gov/uploadedFiles/planning/info/Waterfront/CAAWP%20Analysis%20Report%20of%20the%20Citizens.pdf

      The only concept of compromise for you and Andrew is complete acceptance of your plan.

      • Dennis:

        You seem more interested in attacking our motives then in having a serious and thoughtful debate about what is best for the waterfront and Alexandria.

        The public process was a sham, a behind closed doors deliberation between the City and the only constituents that seem to matter to them– The Washington Post Co, and developers, and the Alexandria Chamber too.

        The City’s analysis of our Report was not a comprehensive analysis of the cost and benefits of the various options, and ideas. It was a very weak document that focused on the only thing the City seems capable of commenting on — short-term revenue projections. Citizens should not be put in the position to both plan and figure out to pay for public benefits on the waterfront (or anything else for that matter), but that is what we have been forced to do. That should be the City’s job and it should be done in an impartial manner.

        The dismissive and hostile response to our Report and efforts says more than anything else that: facts don’t matter much. That’s the real truth Dennis..

        The only thing that Boyd and I have ever wanted is a serious debate about and serious analytical consideration of alternatives. We are still waiting for that to happen at City Hall.

        Andrew Macdonald

  4. 1.1 million spent and there is not a traffic plan. because there is not a solution. you can’t bring thousands more people and cars in and out of the small historic streets of Old Town. If the waterfront brings the people the city hopes it will paralyze the city. We can move Halloween from S. Lee Street to Union Street, “Nightmare on Union Street”!

  5. Pingback: Editorial: Council should delay redevelopment in low-income Arlandria like it did in high-income Old Town | AlexTimes

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