Opinion Your Views — 11 April 2013
Prepare for another waterfront do-over

To the editor:

I don’t know what city council was thinking when it rubberstamped the waterfront redevelopment plan.

First of all, opponents submitted another petition, which City Hall rejected, a few days earlier. So when the city attorney tells the state Supreme Court that March 16’s six-vote do-over moots the waterfront petitioners’ case, opponents will counter that the vote was improper because the petition — which would have stayed the proceedings — was improperly rejected. What’s the Supreme Court to do but remand the entire matter to determine whether the latest petition was improperly rejected?

This is not the closure City Hall had planned on. If anything, it’s an invitation to yet another do-over. At some point, there could end up being so many do-overs that folks will lose count and your newspaper will have to start retroactively renumbering each waterfront vote with Roman numerals.

Folks should understand that this is not just a wrangle between elected officials — installed by electoral majorities garnered from neighborhoods far from the waterfront — in thrall to development and an obstreperous contingent of waterfront residents who don’t like their property rights being sacrificed on the altar of overdevelopment. It is instead every bit as much a wrangle between today’s city council and the one of 20 years ago.

The waterfront plan is so radically different from the one enacted two decades ago that, in essence, it says that today’s city council believes that what the former city council did failed to bring necessary improvements to the Potomac’s shoreline.

A parade of past elected officials tried to tell city council a year ago that the previous city council really knew what it was doing back then, only to be greeted with polite we-know-best indifference.

Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg tried to give everyone an out by suggesting one hotel. One hotel makes sense. It allows for the impact of hotels on the waterfront to be fully gauged. If one hotel is successful, then a decade hence a second could be allowed. This approach is respectful of past city councils because it is the smallest incremental change and leaves to actual experience, rather than hubristic anticipation, whether waterfront hotels make sense.

A protracted legal battle poses perils for all concerned, but especially for City Hall, which might find itself in perpetual do-over. Had one of the six city councilors who voted in the affirmative pressed waterfront plan opponents about whether they would withdraw their lawsuit if the plan were compromised down to one hotel, they would at least have put those same opponents in a bind whereby they either had to settle on the spot or appear intransigent.

Instead, this hubristic city council majority let waterfront plan opponents off the hook and allowed them to ride into court — win or lose — as knights in shining armor, protecting their historic waterfront and its beleaguered inhabitants from their avaricious government.
- Dino Drudi
Alexandria

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