Updated: City Hall weighs using eminent domain to secure Old Dominion Boat Club property

Updated: City Hall weighs using eminent domain to secure Old Dominion Boat Club property

By Derrick Perkins (File Photo)

Updated at 5:43 p.m. The original story is below.

With negotiations for a portion of the Old Dominion Boat Club’s waterfront property again bogged down, Mayor Bill Euille warned Tuesday that City Hall was prepared to seize the land if necessary.

Accusing club leadership of dragging their feet, the mayor told reporters that using eminent domain was a very real possibility. It’s time to forge ahead, Euille said during a press conference.

“After 10 years, frustration and impatience have set in,” said Euille, who previously pledged to avoid using eminent domain. “It just seems like we’re never going to get there. The time has come … to change my approach.”

The on-again, off-again talks center on the organization’s waterfront parking lot and several nearby parking spaces along The Strand. City officials want to see the lot transformed into a public plaza — making the shoreline fully accessible to the public — and other club property used for flood mitigation efforts.

In June, Euille sent club leadership a nine-point plan, hoping to end years of quarreling. They have yet to respond, he said Tuesday.

“It’s gotten to the point that every time we think we’re there, there are two steps backward,” Euille said. “At this time we must move forward.”

Before making a final decision, the city council will host a hearing — set for November 19 — opening the debate to the public. If city councilors decide to move ahead, the 0.6-acre property would be assessed and the boat club reimbursed.

But eminent domain — particularly in regard to the club’s property — has long been a polarizing issue in Alexandria. While officials never shied away from listing it as an option, it often was described as a last resort.

Just the prospect of eminent domain may have cost the mayor a supermajority vote on the controversial waterfront redevelopment plan in January 2012. Frank Fannon, then a city councilor, blasted the proposal for not including language rejecting it outright.

A club member, Fannon remains hopeful that the two sides can reach an agreement without City Hall resorting to eminent domain.

“I’d like nothing more than to see a resolution worked out, and I’m confident it can as long as both sides are dealing with cool heads here,” he said.

Officials need to remember that they’re dealing with an organization that has hundreds of members, Fannon said. With the election for club officers scheduled for December, an internal debate is raging over the mayor’s nine-point plan.

“Not everybody agrees on what path should be taken forward,” Fannon said.

Euille’s decision to explore eminent domain comes as redevelopment efforts along the waterfront heat up. Washington-based Carr Hospitality is refining a hotel proposal for South Union Street, while The Washington Post Co. recently announced the sale of the Robinson Terminals.

In the meantime, litigation surrounding the redevelopment plan has wound down. Last month, the state Supreme Court nullified the proposal’s most serious legal challenge, brought on by Old Town residents.

Accusing the Old Dominion Boat Club of dragging its feet in negotiations for a portion of the group’s waterfront property, Mayor Bill Euille and City Manager Rashad Young have put eminent domain back on the table.

The pair – joined by City Attorney Jim Banks – made the announcement during a press conference Tuesday morning. It’s time to forge ahead, Euille said, citing a decade of fruitless negotiations with club leadership.

“After 10 years, frustration and impatience have set in,” he said. “It just seems like we’re never going to get there.”

At question is the club’s waterfront parking lot as well as  land it owns along The Strand. The city’s controversial redevelopment plan calls for transforming a portion – if not all – of the lot into a public plaza. As for the club’s property along The Strand, officials argue it’s needed for flood mitigation efforts.

In June, Euille sent a letter to club leadership with a nine-point plan for reaching an agreement. They have yet to hear back from the group, he said.

City council will hold a public hearing before making a decision on whether to use eminent domain or continue negotiations. Their only other option, officials said, was drastically reconfiguring the waterfront plan. That meeting is scheduled for November 19.