Your View: Euille and Donley’s development approach doesn’t work

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Your View: Euille and Donley’s development approach doesn’t work
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By Kathryn Papp, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
With their combined fondness for construction and banking, Mayor Bill Euille and former Mayor Kerry Donley have given us a city in a state of dusty anger, disruption and disrepair. And no matter how they spin this story, Alexandria’s density has taken on a dangerous dimension.

When done right, development density should increase tax dollars that the city can then use to strengthen infrastructure, reduce homeowners’ taxes and balance long-term debt. This has not happened.

In the 12 years that Euille has been in charge, critical infrastructure has decayed, tax bills have grown, and it is likely the debt ceiling will need to be adjusted upwards. No one, except developers, have benefited from the past 12 years, where 10 of those years found Alexandria rated the densest city in Virginia.

It is not “development” that is at fault, it is Euille’s — and Donley’s — mismanagement of it. Their small-bore focus on construction and contracts only works well for building and backing scattered townhouses. But when you examine large-scale development projects such as BRAC, Landmark Mall, Beauregard, the waterfront and Potomac Yard, you find profound failure.

The fact is it is federal agencies’ far superior planning and management abilities — and their money — that succeed. We can expect the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and National Science Foundation to produce high quality outcomes — on time and as promised — while Landmark, Beauregard, the waterfront and Potomac Yard continue to falter due to a lack of expertise.

Roughly 50 percent of Alexandria’s new population will live in large development projects, but the other 50 percent will squeeze into dwindling spaces in established neighborhoods. The development plans currently on the table are designed so that we will be adding a significant number of new cars to our already clogged streets. There are no incentives or retail designed to help new residents keep their car at home. The transportation plans are mostly wishful thinking. This is not smart growth, and it is certainly not smart development.

What is at fault is the 12-year failure of our current mayor to safeguard residents from developers’ understandable bias to maximize profit. Euille no longer remembers that the primary responsibility of government is to protect the people by moderating, not accelerating, business benefits.

Being led by a mayor and council who favor construction and contracting has put developer interests ahead of the people. Just look around and listen to your neighbors.

Today, concerned citizens, whose votes made Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg winner of the Democratic primary, should speak loudly and reach out to others who want to live in a city designed for living and working in the 21st century. It would be a new day.

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