Community News Politics __Featured Slider — 07 February 2012
Waterfront fight heading to circuit court

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.

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(2) Readers Comments

  1. I support these legal efforts to force the higher standard of a supermajority, or to force city council to work towards a waterfront plan that has a broader consensus of citizens supporting it. Even if there were 50 percent of people supporting the city plan at the public hearing, the majority of those residents most affected absolutely oppose this plan, and they met the legal standard to oppose the rezoning. The majority of emails to city council also opposed the plan, and many of the people who spoke in support have financial interst in the outcome. The protest petitioners filed two days in advance of the city counil meeting, and a seperate Board of Zoning appeal was filed during the City counil meeting which should of prevented the vote. The final vote is to take place at the counil meeting on Feb. 14th, and I hope that the vote will be delayed untill either the Board fo Zoning Appeals or circuit court hears the appeal. This would be the prudent thing to do.

  2. Sirs:
    A historic riverfront redevelopment master plan that is not comprehensive in terms of greening the riparian edge and matching that green plan with nonintrusive and complementary new development in available parcels elsewhere, [[corresponding with the wishes of the majority of residents likely to be most affected with the proposed changes along the riverfront and in the historic wards along the riverfront and elsewhere in the city]] is not a viable long term solution to the problem of determining the best most viable and sustainable new set of uses of the historic, culturally significant riverfront landscape. Cities like Philadelphia, Chattanooga, Providence, New York, Boston and San Antonio, to name a few, have found balanced and creative answers to this question. The opposition to Alexandria’s current proposal for the reuse of the riverfront is based on valid reasons having to do with the predictable undesirable impacts the proposed plan will have on the historic river wards in Old Town. For the reason that Old Town and the riverfront are Alexandria’s most precious assets, deeply rooted as they are in the history and identity of the city, Alexandria’s urban planners should join with interested citizenry in a working coalition in a series of design charrettes managed by a third party [such as AECOM-EDAW, UVA's School of Architecture or Harvard's Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design] to find over a series of months a viable, balanced and sustainable solution that will satisfy future generations of Alexandrians and visitors who come here from all over the world.
    Lazslo Grzesczkiewicz

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