Our View: Split up the odd couple — Consider water park and historic site separately

Our View: Split up the odd couple — Consider water park and historic site separately

(Courtesy photo)

Alexandria’s six city councilors and Mayor Allison Silberberg certainly see a wide range of items come before them, ranging from the compelling to the trivial. Council had to consider one of the more bizarre proposals in recent memory last weekend, when the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority attempted to couple extending its lease on the Cameron Run Regional Park with its intent to purchase the historic Murray’s Livery house at 517 Prince St. into one action. The question is, why?

The lease between the city and NOVA Parks for Cameron Run, which includes a water park, mini golf course and batting cages, does not expire until 2020, so there is no rush on that front. And Murray’s Livery is a private property, owned by resident Joseph Reeder.

The sale of this property is not even an issue for city council to be involved in, though the city would have to give approval for the house to be opened for public tours and events.

So, there are two different issues — a park and a historic preservation site — that involve different city agencies, dissimilar resident- led boards and commissions and distinct neighborhoods with divergent constituencies.

Linking these two issues makes as much sense as if the Washington Nationals paired a decision to sign fourth outfielder Michael A. Taylor, who is eligible for free agency after the 2020 season, to a long-term contract now with renovations to their spring training facility in Florida.

They are completely different decisions. In the case of Taylor, why would the owners agree to a long-term contract extension when so much can change over the next three and a half years? Unless he suddenly becomes a superstar, and the Nationals know they won’t need the funds, they would be irresponsible to make a long-term pledge to Taylor at this point.

So it is with Cameron Run. Before making a long-term commitment — in this case another 20 years — a lengthy process needs to take place. There needs to be public input into whether the current facility is the best use of that land and whether the city wants to continue partnering with NOVA Parks at all.

The decision needs to be a deliberate calculation of whether the city’s return is worth allowing an outside entity to reap the profits from this parkland. And that decision does not have to be made in 2016.

Murray’s Livery is simply a different issue altogether. Like a spring training facility, it involves oversight of a property that the public will be invited to visit, likely for a fee. From the city’s perspective, there is no good reason to link it to the Cameron Run issue.

NOVA Parks certainly had their own motivation for coupling these two issues. They probably wanted assurances that the profit- able water park would be theirs for the long term before assuming control of a likely money-losing historic preservation effort at Murray’s Livery.

Whether that’s true or not, Alexandria would be foolish to artificially link two issues that need separate vetting. Council did the right thing on Saturday when it deferred action on this joint proposal. But the two items should no more be paired this fall than they are now. Decisions on Cameron Run and 517 Prince St. need to be decoupled and considered one at a time.