By Stephen Hales, Alexandria (File photo)
To the editor:
I am the owner of 811 and 809 Vassar Road and the applicant for a subdivision of my property in the Clover/College Park neighborhood. I was incredibly disappointed in the Alexandria Times’ article (“A presidential debate,” May 21), which purported to report on the fact that the city planning commission recently approved the subdivision of my two lots into three. In an apparent attempt to fabricate a debate — where none should exist, now that the commission and city staff have both approved the subdivision — the Times’ article was full of false statements, inaccurate reporting and pure bias.
To start, I have never spoken with the Times’ reporter, and neither has my wife. Yet the Times quotes a resident as stating that we would seek an easement to build a house that would infringe on a home previously owned, many years ago, by President Gerald Ford. I never made the statement reported in your article and neither did my wife. The inclusion of that quote is pure fabrication. To be clear, the reporter never approached us to verify the quote, never called for a reaction to the article, and made no attempt whatsoever to solicit our view. I am not a journalism expert, but I do know it is ethically and professionally inappropriate to misquote someone who you have never spoken with and have never provided with an opportunity to comment.
Nowhere does the Times question why the owners of the Ford home completely gutted the inside of their home, remodeled their kitchen and baths, changed all the landscaping and took out the pool (a pool, which apparently was President Ford’s pride and joy, which he kept heated for use during the winter time), and yet still claim that the “view” is of a historic nature. So, after the Ford homeowners have literally taken the history out of the home, they now want to tag an entire neighborhood with a historic designation. How could this be viewed as anything other than bullying by neighbors, enabled by the Times?
It should also be noted that the owner of the Ford home has a professional relationship with several people at the Times through her work as public relations specialist and spokesperson for ACPS. Your failure to disclose a potential conflict of interest raises serious doubts about
the Times’ objectivity. It is one thing to allow an OpEd about an issue that is indicated as an opinion. It is quite another to write a supposedly objective article on the subject with a completely biased party as the main source.
If the article had been fact-checked and reported with even a modicum of journalistic integrity, I am confident the biased tone would have been eliminated. And the facts are clear: The new lot falls easily within the specifications for a new lot within R-8 zoning, and city staff and the planning commission have determined that the lots are in keeping with the character of the neighborhood. There was a full hearing where neighbors were allowed to voice their opinion. They voiced their opinion, and yet the planning commission disagreed and approved the subdivision. This is not a news story; it’s simply sour grapes.