Waterfront fight heading to circuit court

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An offshoot of Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan made good on a longstanding threat Tuesday, asking the circuit court to nullify the 5-2 vote approving the city’s shoreline blueprint.

“We felt at some point we had to take action,” said CAAWP cofounder Andrew Macdonald during a press conference held on the steps of the city courthouse. “We had to take legal action.”

The lawsuit, to be filed within the next several days, comes at the behest of three waterfront residents: Beth Gibney, Marie Kux and April Burke. Represented by attorney Roy Shannon, the trio is calling on the courts to void the zoning changes wrought by the plan’s passage on January 21.

They argue city council didn’t have the authority to approve the plan or the zoning changes following the 10-hour debate. A day earlier, plan opponents filed a protest petition with the city, which would have forced a supermajority city council vote had Planning Director Farol Hamer not rejected it.

While many refer to the waterfront plan as a singular entity, in actuality the proposal is two documents: a map amendment and a text amendment. City officials say there’s no way for residents to protest a text amendment, the document that included increased density at the three key waterfront sites.

Detractors made a second attempt to derail the plan’s passage by trying to file with the board of zoning appeals prior to city council’s decision, which would have stayed the vote pending further review. City staff refused their appeal before and during the marathon session.

“If [city officials] think they’ve won on a technicality, but lost the [trust of] residents then I don’t think they’ve really won,” Gibney said.

While CAAWP isn’t directly involved in the lawsuit, they will help the plaintiffs with their legal fees, Macdonald said. Opponents likely will file with an appeal with the BZA – as a backup, said member Bert Ely – while they wait for the issue to move through the courthouse.