EDITORIAL: Calling for compromise 
is not enough

(File Photo)

Though the passionate — and occasionally vitriolic — debate surrounding the future of the Old Dominion Boat Club’s waterfront parking lot has divided the community, it also has brought out the best in a pair of our neighbors.

Christine Bernstein and Jody Manor, two well-known members of the city waterfront commission, took it upon themselves to find a middle ground. Their plan calls for swapping the boat club’s waterfront property (the parking lot and clubhouse) for the nearby Beachcomber building.

This would obviously not be an even swap, as the boat club would then have to build a new clubhouse and dock. But with some city funding, which would surely be cheaper than defending use of eminent domain in court, an equitable trade is possible.

While innovative, this is not exactly a new idea. The pair admits that talks about moving the clubhouse have been raised in the years of negotiations between the group and City Hall.
It’s not clear whether that’s a viable option — we tend to think it falls more in the pie-in-the-sky category — but these two residents deserve our applause for thinking outside of the box and presenting it to negotiators.

We have heard a lot of talk about compromise and the need for it these past few years — compromise on shoreline hotels, taxicab industry regulations and even bike lanes. Everybody wants compromise, it seems.

But much less frequently do we see residents take it upon themselves to tackle the city’s most divisive issues head-on. Calls for compromise are common; finding a solution is rare.

The last time we can recall such an ambitious move by residents would have to be back in the early days of the waterfront redevelopment plan. Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront — the precursor to Friends of the Alexandria Waterfront — presented a substitute plan that emphasized parks and museums.

Then, as now, we had our doubts about the proposal. But that did not stop us from congratulating the group for taking on the issue and drafting alternative ideas.

It’s easy to look at issues like these and see them as problems solely for our elected leaders to solve. Our city councilors represent us, but they cannot do a very good job of it when the extent of our involvement is to call for the vague and subjective notion that is compromise.

But before we start throwing stones in glass houses, we admit it’s a trap that we have fallen into as well. No one is immune — whether purposely or inadvertently — from taking the easy road from time to time.

Part of our mission, as we see it, is to foster civic engagement. Most of the time, that means keeping people informed of what’s happening around town. Occasionally, it means holding up a resident — or, in this case, two — for setting the bar a little higher for the rest of us.

With the new year around the corner, let’s pledge to do more than demand compromise. Let’s find it.

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(1) Reader Comment

  1. This editorial properly praises Christine Bernstein and Jody Manor for proposing an alternative to eminent domain in suggesting that the Old Dominion Boat Club might be moved to Prince Street and the old Beachcomber property. Such a move would likely require demolition of the deteriorating Beachcomber building and construction of a new Clubhouse, boat storage and launch facility and vehicle parking area. As the DC/VA boundary is significantly closer to the shoreline at this location, it would also require extended riparian rights be granted to the Boat Club to duplicate their current riparian rights. It is unlikely that the Beachcomber property alone would be sufficient. Still it is likely to be cheaper than pursing eminent domain. It is hard to guess at the costs but there does not seem to be a proper economic evaluation of the Waterfront Plan either. The City planners thought the Federal suit would give them the Boat Club property for free, now they seek taking it by eminent domain. In any case it will be the taxpayers footing the bill.

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