Council backs board on house addition denial


The house at 323 N. St. Asaph Street in Old Town will not have a 900-square-foot addition. The Alexandria City Council voted unanimously to uphold the decision of the Board of Architectural Review for the Old and Historic District not to allow the owners to demolish and encapsulate historic material on the house.

More than 20 people came to speak about this issue, most of them in support of the BARs decision. The house is in the center of a row of five frame form vernacular row houses that were built some time between 1858 and 1867.

These are the last five homes of this type left in the City, said Steve Malone, speaking on behalf of the City staff. Allowing this demolition and encapsulation would destroy the footprint and negatively impact the remaining four homes.

Duncan Blair represented the owners of the home in question. The back of the home has already been altered and there is no historic fabric left. A bay window was even added at some point. The addition is in the back of the home and thus would not change what the public sees from the front of these houses.

Old Town is a place where people live. These are homes, not museums and if my clients had been told that there was no way they were going to be permitted to accomplish their goals here, they would not have spent thousands of dollars designing an acceptable addition, Blair said.

This is not the first time that Council has wrestled with one of these cases. We need to deal with these issues separately, said Councilman Paul Smedberg. If we are not going to allow people to demolish and/or encapsulate historic fabric, there is no point in their proceeding to design something that would be acceptable if we do.

The last case of this type that came to Council resulted in the owner of Old Towns Trophy Room closing his business and moving on. He, too, had worked with an architect designing an addition that, in the end, could not be built because demolition and encapsulation were denied.

Neighbors objected to this addition because of the nature of the connection to the other four homes. If we had contemplated an addition of this type being permitted, we would never have bought our beautiful home, said the owners of 319 N. St. Assaph Street, Gerome and Lori Terrazinsky. This addition doesnt just affect the owners of one of these houses but all five owners.

Council agreed. My visit to this little enclave convinced me that we should not allow this addition, said Vice Mayor Redella S. Del Pepper. It truly is a little oasis in Old Town and represents the types of homes that were occupied by working people in the 19th century. These five houses are truly important to Alexandrias history.

Planning Director Farroll Hamer agreed that the staff would discuss separating the processes that BAR reviews. We have already had some of these discussions internally but we will widen the scope of those and come back with some sort of a recommendation about separating the request to demolish and encapsulate from the design, she said.

  • Daycare home approved

Council approved another home daycare facility on Alfred Street but not without controversy. Councilman Paul Smedberg and Vice Mayor Redella S. Del Pepper abstained.

The request was for a home childcare program that will accommodate nine children. In addition to the concern about the limited space in the home, Council members expressed concern about a letter that they received about the unsuitability of the operator.

It was not signed but it references police activity at the home and other problems there. Has anyone investigated these allegations? Smedberg said.

Carol Farrell, who supervises daycare providers for the citys Department of Human Services, told Council that there was a background investigation and a Child Protective Service clearance on file for the applicant. The state has not done their own investigation into the suitability of this provider because they do not conduct their own investigation until Council has decided on the land use issue, said Rich Josephson, the deputy director of the Planning Department. You are not being asked to determine whether the applicant is qualified, just whether you are going to permit this use in this place.

The use was approved 5-0-2.

  • New mixed use plan for Del Ray

There will be a new mixed use development on Mt. Vernon Ave. at the corner of Oxford. It will include commercial and retail space and will open in the next couple of years.

Most who came to speak about the project last Saturday supported it. However, Amy Slack, speaking for the Del Ray Citizens Association, expressed concern about the request to allow loading and unloading on Mt. Vernon Ave. The Mt. Vernon Ave. plan is very clear, Slack said. We have made a commitment that we will require businesses to have loading docks and spaces in the back of their businesses so that we do not disrupt traffic or parking on Mt. Vernon Ave. during the day. I know that loading and unloading is allowed on King Street but we just dont see how that is going to work here.

Council agreed to allow loading and unloading on Mt. Vernon Ave. but only between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. and they required the developer to, if feasible, place a small loading dock in the parking lot adjacent to the development. Council is also requiring the developer to enter into a cooperative loading and unloading agreement with other businesses on Mt. Vernon Ave. who could share the spaces that have been set aside for this purpose. During other hours, the spaces will be available for general parking.

The design is very good and this project will be a great addition to Mt. Vernon Ave. but I do worry that we are losing all of our gas stations in the City, said Councilman Tim Lovain. The one that was in this location is closing, as is another gas station at the intersection of King, Braddock and Quaker. I dont know that there is anything we can do about this but I did want to express my concern.