To the editor:
I just recently read that Bill Euille, our esteemed mayor, was given a prestigious award from the most important historic preservation organization in the country. Is this a joke? We accepted this award while our fearless planning director, Farrell Hamer, a resident of Maryland, is engaged in turning our historic city into Coney Island? In case you havent noticed, the city planners and city council are about to destroy the historic ambiance of this great community.
The proposed waterfront plan is a perfect example of planning ineptitude at its greatest. Three hotels on Union Street just defy any rational development strategy. The reasoning is that there will be less vehicular traffic during the peak traffic hours than if the development were residential. Maybe so, but what about all the delivery trucks tying up traffic on Union Street in the early morning, throughout the day and into the night as they service the three hotels? It will be a devastating blow to any rational traffic flow. The planning director and five of the seven Planning Commission members dont live in Old Town and are totally clueless as to the current traffic woes we citizens already experience.
Ms. Hamer stated at a recent Old Town Civic Association meeting that even though the federal court has finally awarded the Old Dominion Boat Club its entire waterfront properties, it was totally immaterial to the planning process. I dont think so! Taking the Old Dominion Boat Clubs parking lot and making it a park with a restaurant on top is a nonstarter. The 700 members of the Boat Club have to agree to this trade and I think the odds are that they will turn it down.
Planners, here is a quick plan thats a vast improvement over what Ms. Hamer has put together: The two Robinson terminals have already become the northern and southern anchors for the waterfront plan. Lets take those two terminals and convert one into a maritime museum and the other into an archeological museum. The city wants to establish a third hotel at the Cummings/Turner buildings on Union Street between Prince and Duke Streets. Why not adapt and reuse those buildings and turn them over to the Art League and / or build a number of small shops just like the Cannery or Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco. Take the Beachcomber building and either adapt it for a restaurant or an office building. Since the Chadwicks parking lot is still owned by citizens, it is more than likely that property will not be available for anything other than the current parking lot. The Dandy and Chadwicks depend on that lot as it provides about 100 parking spaces.
Before implementation starts the city needs to take care of its decaying infrastructure. The flooding issue is the most important, followed by fixing the sewers, burying the overhead wires and reworking the bulkheads on the Potomac.We need a new waterfront plan that starts with the right assumptions; one that doesnt degrade our historic preservation principles and our property values. Thats why I would recommend that we defer the current waterfront plan until a new plan can be developed, hopefully by a new planning director.