Waterfront plan drowns out local concerns


To the editor:

I read with great interest former Vice Mayor Andrew MacDonalds recent newspaper column (The waterfront as a public place, October 21, 2010) and couldnt agree more with most of the points he makes. 

As a resident nearby the area that will be most affected by the citys Draft Waterfront Plan, I have attended and participated in the majority of the public hearings and events on the subject, the most recent one being the Old Town Civic Associations meeting October 13. Here are the general comments that I have heard asked, for which we are still waiting for answers.

1.  What benefit is this plan to Old Town residents if the plan is designed to primarily commercialize the waterfront and draw outside visitors to Alexandria? It has very little to no benefit for Alexandria residents, and further, it will negatively impact current residents continued enjoyment of their homes and community, especially near the waterfront.

2.  The primary focus of the plan is the King Street pier and connecting terminus of bus and trolley activity at the base of King Street. The whole design turns the area, including Waterfront Park, into a ferry/bus terminal for arriving and departing tourists to the detriment of current residents. How does this benefit existing residents and local visitors? 

3.  Available parking is lessened by the plan and no new parking is created by city planners. This will put a burden on the limited residential parking in the area, and city residents from elsewhere will be hard pressed to find affordable parking, should they wish to visit the area. How does this benefit residents and property owners?

4.  Another major point is the costs and timing of completion of the current draft plan. How much will this plan cost? How will it be paid for? How much time will it take to complete? How can any resident, taxpayer or property owner reasonably comprehend or assess the plan without honest and accurate answers to these questions?

5.  There has not been enough exploration into the feasibility or environmental concerns affecting the waterfront with this plan. The ambitious and pronounced extension of the city docks well into the Potomac River, centered on the King Street Pier, create many environmental and feasibility questions for authorities and experts to define and resolve before anyone can reasonably decide on the plan.
Before the Alexandria City Council votes for this, they had better do some soul searching and reflect on the missteps that their predecessors took in the 1960s under the flag of the then-popular urban renewal banner. 

During the planning directors various briefings, it has been mentioned that the current plan has cost the city taxpayers more than $1million. Given the amount of money that has been sunk already, my sense is that council now feels that something better come out of it. Rather than rushing into the approval of something that still has many unanswered questions, I urge two things: That citizens get involved unless they want to live with the result and that council answer the hard, detailed questions before voting on anything.