Down to the wire

Down to the wire

By Erich Wagner (File photo)

The deadline for a deal for the coveted Old Dominion Boat Club parking lot passed Monday, but City Hall hasn’t pulled the trigger on eminent domain just yet.

After 90 days of negotiations — brought about by City Hall’s threat to use eminent domain to secure the land last fall — officials have settled on two alternatives for the boat club’s consideration. Members can opt to stay put and surrender their parking lot or move to the site of the city-owned Beachcomber property, where they could remodel and build a new parking facility.

The longstanding quest to secure the club’s parking lot has often put boat club members at odds with City Hall, but the lingering feud reignited in earnest with the passage of the waterfront redevelopment plan and the resolution of most major lawsuits challenging the proposal. Under the plan, which was years in the making, the club’s parking lot would become a public plaza known as Fitzgerald Square.

Boat club members will review the city’s proposals and discuss their options at a meeting Saturday with a vote on the proposals slated for Monday.

If the club remains in its building and sells the lot, officials would set aside nearly 50 permanent parking spots for members in nearby city garages. The city also would provide the boat club with $2.5 million in compensation.

If members chose to move to the Beachcomber property, the city would allow the club to build a 30-space parking lot at the property, and provide an additional 15 spaces of parking in the vicinity. The group also would receive $5 million.

Both plans give club members access to a combination of the organization’s piers and city-owned piers. It also opens the possibility of the club constructing new docks. And both transfer ownership of Wales Alley — fought over for decades — to the city.

City spokesman Craig Fifer declined to comment about the potential deal prior to the boat club’s meeting. Former city councilor and boat club member Frank Fannon said members’ opinions about the plans vary widely.

“What has upset a lot of members is the city strong-arming the club — we feel — to work under threat of eminent domain,” Fannon said. “[I’ve] talked with dozens of members, and a lot of them don’t like these options. They see it as a giveaway from the club’s perspective. But others want a new clubhouse and don’t mind giving up some of the land.

“With a club like ours, we’ve got 700 members, and likely 700 different opinions. It will be an interesting vote.”

That vote, particularly the structure of the ballot, drew scrutiny at Tuesday’s waterfront commission meeting. Commissioners questioned the logic of letting club members decide between the two city-approved offers and a third option of holding fast.

Several worried no clear consensus would emerge, arguing it made more sense to break it up into two votes. The first would determine whether members were open to the city’s offers. If so, a second vote would determine which of the two options was more palatable.

But a representative of the boat club on hand for the meeting said organizers had few options given the city-imposed time constraints.