Opinion: What’s the rush on the waterfront?

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To the editor:

Maybe I missed it, but nowhere in the present waterfront contretemps do I recall the urgency for this significant project. Really, why now? What’s the rush? The world will not come to an end if the mayor and his city council acolytes abate their rush to judgment. Who’s working for whom here?

The city’s plan is indisputably divisive. It created an extraordinary community reaction. Absent any compelling explanation for a burning need to refashion a unique and historic section of Alexandria, this could be an instance when doing nothing is the right choice.

Choosing this option will allow the advocates of competing waterfront plans time to explain how their proposals addresses important metrics. Foremost among these metrics must be quality of life, not for overnight visitors, but for permanent residents, particularly those directly affected by alterations to the waterfront.

Other, more easily quantifiable metrics include cost, traffic and density. Of all these, however, density is the real snake in the grass. Just as a glass can hold only so much fluid, so too can Alexandria hold only so many people, structures and vehicles before the quality of life atrophies from traffic congestion.

You don’t have to look far to see the consequences of densification. The Pentagon annex at Mark Center is but one. Our city officials approved it, but belatedly agreed with our congressional delegation that it was a mistake. It’s too massive a structure with too many people using too many cars to reach it.

To prevent the waterfront from becoming Mark Center, the city should forestall its rush. There is no burning urgency to reshape the waterfront now, or in the near future.

Tabling this vigorously contested initiative will defuse the city-caused fury among the residents City Hall was created to serve. After all, the elected and appointed public servants pushing their waterfront plan are not our lords and masters. It’s the other way ‘round.

Jim Roberts
Alexandria