City Councilman Frank Fannon raised eyebrows last week when he slammed the approved waterfront plan as having “endorsed the seizure of private property through eminent domain as an option.”
Fannon, who cast one of two votes against the controversial plan, made the remark in his regularly emailed community update and in a letter to the editor in the Alexandria Times. The line was a reference to the on-again, off-again spat with the Old Dominion Boat Club, of which Fannon is a member, and its parking lot at the foot of King Street.
The plan should have included stronger language against the use of eminent domain, Fannon said in an interview last week.
But no matter what went into the document, eminent domain remains an option for city council, said Jim Banks, city attorney. City council members can’t tie the hands of future elected leaders.
“You can decide not to use it today, and you can decide to use it tomorrow,” Banks said. “It’s a legislatively conferred power. It can only be constrained by the General Assembly.”
Fannon admits it’s a question of semantics but believes the plan’s wording gives city officials cover if they ever pursued eminent domain to seize the club’s private property. Several bills, including a constitutional amendment restricting the use of eminent domain, are making the rounds in Richmond.