Alexandria waterfront planning has cost taxpayers about $1.1 million so far

Alexandria waterfront planning has cost taxpayers about $1.1 million so far

Waterfront plan critics and supporters hotly disagree on the costs and benefits of their dueling visions for Alexandria’s shoreline, but the roughly two-year process has a price tag of its own: nearly $1.1 million so far.

Planning for the city’s proposed waterfront blueprint accounts for about half of the total figure. A further $424,522 was spent on a flood mitigation study and the city doled out roughly $50,000 for the Old Town Parking Study, two efforts related to the planning process.

And since city council in June opted to delay voting on the plan approved by the planning commission, an additional $17,800 has been spent on an outside consultant for the waterfront work group, a citizen committee handpicked by Mayor Bill Euille to reconcile criticisms of the blueprint. They are expected to present their findings to city council this month.

The official price tag for the plan omits the cost of labor for drawing up the blueprint, said Karl Moritz, deputy planning director. Two full-time planning and zoning department employees have been assigned to the project and they’ve drawn on the expertise of personnel in other departments to complete the work. He estimates having dedicating about half of any given workweek to the plan.

The money has been ill spent, said Andrew Macdonald, co-founder of Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan and an outspoken opponent of the city’s proposal. The group released a competing vision for the Potomac waterfront, which was planned by city officials but with some community input, in late October, emphasizing parks and cultural centers rather than commercial redevelopment.

If the city council doesn’t consider any of the alternatives to the current iteration of the plan, which calls for boutique hotels at three key sites along the waterfront, Macdonald believes members should forgo any final decision.

“We don’t believe they should be approving or adopting the plan the planning commission voted for,” he said. “We think there is an alternative [plan] they need to consider seriously. How they go about doing that is up to them.”

The commission-approved plan omits a detailed vision for the GenOn power plant site, which is now up for possible redevelopment after company officials announced plans to close the facility earlier this year. City officials also have not approached the Robinson Terminal Co., a subsidiary of the Washington Post Co., about acquiring two of the three sites mired in controversy.

Both need consideration before a final vote, Macdonald said.

“I don’t think it requires a lot of extra money and consultants,” he said. “I think we, as a community, in a month or two could come up with something.”

But barring a surprise from the waterfront work group, Euille doesn’t think a second delay is a possibility. The committee, drawn from a pool of candidates crafted by city council members, has spent four months trying to reconcile the plan with resident criticisms, he said.

“In fairness to [the waterfront work group], I’d rather wait until we get their report before I begin to believe we have to defer this again,” he said. “I think the timetable is pretty much set.”

City council is expected to vote on the plan soon after their January 21 meeting.