As commission approves waterfront plan, residents hit high-water mark

As commission approves waterfront plan, residents hit high-water mark

After years of study and countless public forums the controversial waterfront plan entered the home stretch Tuesday and though much has changed, critics remain steadfast against it. 

After several iterations, the proposed waterfront restaurant is no more. Planners also have slashed the space allotted for other eateries from 109,000 to 50,000 square feet. 
Revisions, added since April’s public hearing, include adding kiosks, a possible space for farmers markets, a public pier and a stage for the performing arts along the waterfront.  
A final sticking point, ongoing negotiations with the Old Dominion Boat Club for the group’s property at the foot of King Street, has yet to be settled. The planning commission ultimately opted to give negotiators wiggle room to reach an agreement before voting 6-1 in favor of the plan, but not before allowing the public to weigh in on two potential compromises.
One has the city swapping a boathouse on Eisenhower Avenue and a pier on the citys marina for a walkway connecting Waterfront Park to the existing public promenade. The second option reconfigures the boat clubs parking lot to expand public space at the foot of King Street.
Most speakers instead took the opportunity to blast the plan as a whole and air their grievances with the commission.
You have violated the public trust. You have brought us down here and are asking us to vote or comment on things we know very little about, said Andrew MacDonald, a longstanding opponent of the proposal. You ask us for our opinion and then in the next moment say we’ll selectively take some of it.
Several, including Old Town resident Bert Ely, asked the commission to defer a decision until a later date. People need more time to digest the recent changes, he said. 
The plan is not ready for the primetime, Ely told commissioners.     
Others, like Michael Peck, spoke out against zoning changes, emphasizing hotel development at the Robinson Terminals. He critiqued the commission for moving ahead despite repeated calls to hold off on a decision.
You don’t listen to us, he said. You don’t pay attention to our comments. You treat us as children of a lesser god. You need to start being more democratic. 
Commission Chairman John Komoroske shot back, asking opponents where they were during the years of planning and public meetings. Alexandria is not National Harbor or Disneyland and the waterfront plan recognizes that, he said. 
It’s just so frustrating because [opponents] weren’t there for the earlier stuff, he said. We want to do things that are sustainable and implementable. We don’t want to wait around until 20 years from now. We want this to be something we can get done in our lifetime I think we are ready to go. I think this is ready.
Commissioners did amend the plans text to reflect their desire for boutique hotels, like the Morrison House. Donna Fossum was the loan dissenting vote, echoing calls by the public to defer a decision.
The Alexandria City Council takes up the plan on May 14.