Eminent domain case goes forward

Eminent domain case goes forward

Should the Alexandria Sanitation Authority be allowed to take a piece of private property by eminent domain for the purpose of expanding? The Alexandria Planning Commission will consider a request to rezone the property for industrial use at its December meeting.

John Fagelson, Charles Hoof and members of two other families own the 10 acres in question. Located just off the Capitol Beltway in the Eisenhower Valley, only three acres are buildable. The remainder of the property is located in a Resource Protection Area.  The property is adjacent to the Sanitation Authority, which handles most of Alexandrias sewage treatment. The plant also treats sewage from Fairfax County.

In 2004, Fagelson and Hoof began conversations with the Sanitation Authority about the property. We were willing to sell our property to them but we could not agree on the value of the property, Fagelson said.

In 2006, Fagelson and Hoof were in contract negotiations with a D.C. developer to develop the property. Just days before that contract was to be finalized, we got a letter from ASA telling us that they needed the property for expansion and since they have the authority to condemn it and take it under eminent domain, that put an end to our contract, Fagelson said.

According to Karen Pallansch, the general manager at ASA, we need the property so that we can expand to comply with new federal and state regulations for additional nutrient removal from solid waste. We were aware of the new law in 2000 but the regulations were not written until 2006. We are responsible for full implementation of these new regulations by 2011 and we need additional space to do so.

Current zoning
The Hoofs Run property, as it is known, falls under the Eisenhower East Small Area plan. It is the last piece of undeveloped property in Alexandria on the Beltway, Fagelson said. When the community was going through the planning process for Eisenhower East, the Planning Commission and City Council saw this property as having an architecturally significant building on it that would identify Alexandria.

Fagelson and Hoof have submitted a concept site plan that has just such a building. We are proposing an office building with two towers that has 510,000 square feet of developed space. By right, we can build a 15-story or 150-foot tall building and could go as high as 200 foot with something architecturally significant, Fagelson said. We are also proposing a smaller residential building that would have 170,000 square feet of developed space. Our plans are very preliminary but, at current market rates and based on the current real estate tax rate, this development could bring the city around $3 million in additional revenue each year. If the Sanitation Authority has the property it will be off the tax roles.

A matter of public policy
Will the Planning Commission and ultimately City Council rezone the property to allow for the expansion? Richard Bayer, director of Transportation and Environmental Services for the City, was asked to comment on Asias proposal.

Until I see some sort of a site plan and an explanation of exactly what they are planning to do, I cant really provide an informed opinion, Baier said. I need to understand why they cant do what the new regulations require on the current site and why, for example, they cant use the parking lot if they need to build something else. I am waiting for additional information before I comment.

Engineers at ASA are preparing a response to these questions. If we had known about these new regulations in 1998, we would have planned our expansion differently, Pallansch said. Now, we are where we are.

The matter is now on the Planning Commissions Dec. 4, docket.