Opinion: Why I voted against the waterfront plan

Opinion: Why I voted against the waterfront plan

To the editor:

I voted against the waterfront plan and I want to clear up any misunderstanding on why. Reading post-vote emails from constituents, I was most struck by the following statement that may frame the issue for others so I wanted to share it: “I’m not sure what motivated your decision to vote against a very reasonable, market-driven waterfront plan — political opportunism or a conviction that additional taxes are a tradeoff for ‘historical’ preservation.” The constituent went on to say, “[F]or the city’s sake I hope your cynical vote is mere opportunism and not a deeply held belief on how to sustain an urban economy.”

The answer is neither. Public service requires more from me and my history on council is as a spendthrift committed to low taxes and a balanced commercial-residential tax base, which in essence, requires more — not less — development to be realized. But it has to be in the right place.

In making my decision, I first removed personal passion and individual emotion from my thinking. I objectively evaluated the facts and the law, considering what decisions would be legally defensible and winnable if the city was sued. As a steward of our resources, that’s my job.

Second, I considered the will of the people I represent, to the extent that their will would not put the city in a compromised legal or financially deleterious position. A distant third were my personal views.

My “no” vote can be summed up with the following: 1. The 1992 comprehensive down-zoning was legally defensible and winnable based on comments made by our city attorney during the work session preceding the public hearing. 2. The economic analysis remains presumptively flawed and too incomplete for comfort in that it does not adequately cost out how the plan can be realized without an undue burden on taxpayers. 3. An option to seize property owned by the Old Dominion Boat Club by eminent domain is unacceptable but part of the plan in order to open the foot of King Street. 4. A deeply held belief that there can be development, but it must be controlled one project at a time. 5. Serious flaws in our processes, including how we have engaged and treated our residents, with the bulk of my constituents siding against the plan.

– Alicia Hughes
Alexandria City Councilwoman