Letter to the Editor: Karig proves it’s time to change our zoning code

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The Beth El Hebrew Congregation, which backs up to Karig Estates (Photo Credit: Missy Schrott)
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To the editor:

Except for Mayor Allison Silberberg, the rest of the city council displayed its predictable pro-developer disposition when they voted to allow the wooded, environmentally sensitive area known as Karig to become four trophy houses. If this happens, then lost forever is open land in a city that is becoming denser by the day in every way.

Unless I missed something, no one — certainly not any member of our deaf-to-citizens city council – proposed buying the developer’s purchase contract. Baffling since apparently money is not the issue, since during the same proceeding that our city council elected to pave the Karig property, it found funds to help a land rich, but financially beleaguered church monetize its property by building affordable housing.

Saving Karig also brought out the By Right advocates. They made their point: unless a property is zoned otherwise, then its owners have the right to develop it. And get this: Most of Alexandria is currently zoned to accommodate single family dwellings. For example, the vast holdings of the Episcopal Seminary, mostly open land, has been long zoned for single family dwellings; potentially hundreds of houses.

I acquired this revelation when, some years ago, I was visiting city hall. The city employee with whom I spoke also opined that if all the By Right owners build on their property, then Alexandria will have twice as many dwellings as it has now. The employee was quick to point out, however, that no one has ever made an accounting of the dwelling density, and their prospective occupants, that could be permitted under current zoning regulations.

What this suggests is that it’s time to assess whether current zoning is serving the city we have and the one we want to bequest to the future. City council candidates who genuinely care about Alexandria should support creating a commission to ascertain what realistic options exist to alter current zoning to foster land conservation.

If none exist, then at least a campaign could be created to contact the owners of what little open land exists to assist them to be fairly compensated for placing an easement on their property that will keep it undeveloped in perpetuity. Programs already exist for just this purpose. My point: Without action, the status quo is evermore development and density, which our history shows are preludes to higher property taxes for all. And, in the meantime, it’s not too late for the city manager to reach out to the Karig developer to at least explore the parameters of a deal where everyone benefits.

-Jimm Roberts, Alexandria

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