Your Views: Waterfront work group slanted toward development


To the editor:
First, full disclosure: I am a member of the Alexandria Archaeological Commission and principal author of the AACs History Plan, which was the work of many, created at the citys request (with which we worked closely) and somewhat absorbed into the final small area plan. What follows are my own views and not those of the AAC.
Alexandrians should worry about two recent waterfront developments: the work groups composition and news the city is considering employing eminent domain to seize the Old Dominion Boat Club parking lot. Neither is surprising, and both appear to stem from a troubling and sometimes hypocritical aspect of the waterfront fiasco officials focusing on development over a true, public vision regarding the waterfront. 
While I believe the work groups members are serious-minded and strive for fairness, the body is comprised largely of those with development, finance, real estate and land use backgrounds.
The mayor was careful to exclude any historical or preservationist perspectives. Its as if the deck is stacked against fresh perspectives in favor of a predetermined outcome similar to the existing SAP. One hopes the appointees will think independently, yet the fear is they will follow the lead of officials and ignore the valid concerns of the larger public.
That the city also is contemplating eminent domain regarding the ODBC property is not surprising, but it is perhaps hypocritical considering city council has loudly denied considering it while also claiming that purchasing new property for the waterfront plan was too expensive at least when it meant the Robinson Terminal parcels.  
Why should the city take ODBC land but not other parcels along the waterfront? Why is it permissible to take the parking lot yet inconceivable to take even historic buildings to preserve them? It is troubling that the city seems to have a flexible notion of public good when it comes to eminent domain. Put it to the people to decide if they want to pay for those parcels and offer realistic numbers as well.
City council claimed developing the waterfront will fund undefined cultural and preservation assets. Why are potential waterfront tax revenues more suitable for cultural and preservation needs than revenue from other neighborhoods? Why must it shoulder the costs when there is massive development elsewhere? Why must we accept placing cultural and preservationist assets on the willingness of developers to contribute or on some unknown ability to pay in a distant future?
Let us hope that the work group will not only rise above the limits created by city council, but also reach out to the informed community as well. We need a true vision for the future, not a shortsighted stab at revenue generation.