The waterfront belongs to taxpayers, not developers


Alexandria is about to experience its own Tea Party moment: taxation without representation, usurpation of basic citizen rights and crass and commercial dismissal of our citys historic legacy in favor of back-room developer deals.  

It is also a pure bait and switch betrayal regarding the misused privatizing the waterfront slogan. The commercial development being snaked into our citys waterfront will likely include restrictive and economic discriminatory establishments that few lower-income people are able to enjoy. 

Thirty out of the 35 citizens who spoke out during the April 5 Planning Commission public hearing were against the plan and we stayed up until midnight on a weekday to make sure our voices were sounded, if not heard. Those who were in favor included the plans author and representatives from the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association, which is partly funded by the citys hotel tax receipts no surprise there. The planning commission began its defensive public crouch by extolling how many meetings and how many presentations it had stood up over time as if quantity has some relationship to quality.

The problem is that there is no credible quality in this plan, specifically in Old Town, where the results will be lowered property values, more vacant hotel rooms, suffocating parking conditions and just the plain architectural ugliness for which the city government is responsible.

See for yourselves. Go to the Mirant utility site and walk backwards to King Street. Count the office and hotel buildings right on the waterfront and make up your own minds. Why in the world should we trust these same people to do anything different except erect another neo-boring architectural elephant?

Here is the key parameter framing our reality: the May 5 vote on changing the existing law for Robinson Terminal North is a Trojan horse so dont let it enter our city gates. Existing zoning law prohibits hotels at this site. Lets keep it that way. The planning commissions need more revenue argument is now overcome by events because the Alexandria Boat Club parking lot option is no longer. Bottom-line: we dont need the hotel revenue at North Robinson Terminal to afford what were not going to do at the Alexandria Boat Club. Conclusion: the planning commissions revenue justification is gone, baby, gone. 

If we really want to re-enfranchise our entire citizenry, do the math and start with the sewer systems. The waterfront should be about parks and museums and cultural centers open to all and preferably for free. Underground parking should be built so that we dont choke on our own growth, for once.  The tourist dollars that will fill up our existing, undeserved hotels and half-empty restaurants will more than pay for upkeep if we know how to manage our city budget efficiently and honestly. Intelligent and profitable cities have proved nationwide that authentic, historical culture is the biggest and most lasting draw lets go with our strongest suit.