To the editor:
Fellow Alexandrian Jeremy Flachs did a terrific job explaining the issues at play at the Karig Estates in his oped in the April 12 Alexandria Times. This issue has disturbed us ever since we heard that Planning and Zoning staff and six out of seven city council members chose to disregard geologic and natural resources experts and allow development on the Karig property that violates our laws protecting intermittent streams and perennial wetlands. Why?
We also learned that Transportation and Environmental Services testified before council that a wetland inventory of the site had been conducted. … But then a recent Freedom of Information request reveals that the required assessment checklist for a wetland determination did not exist. Was a wetland assessment following the required North Carolina and/or Fairfax methods done or not?
From our perspective there appears to be no explanation except an apparent developer bias among many city council members who perhaps think all development is desirable. There seems to be a disregard of environmental laws designed to protect our eco-systems that provide green space and trees that are a counterbalance to urbanization. The fixation on increased tax revenue from new development overshadows consideration of the cost burden on infrastructure, which then results in the need for higher property taxes for all of us.
Six members of city council voted for development that will cause the destruction of a protected wetland and old forest. They did not want to consider alternative plans.
The lone dissenting vote was Mayor Allison Silberberg, who took the time to study the issues, to listen to geologic and hydraulic experts and to the intense opposition from neighbors worried about soil instability affecting their properties, and distraught over the loss of 50 mature trees and clearly protected wetlands. She has stood with citizens on countless other issues by opposing limits on citizen testimony before council and in her principled votes to protect us from unreasonable property tax increases and to preserve existing parking standards instead of reducing builders’ requirements.
She has fought to include less expensive housing in development decisions. She has supported strong school budgets, including the building of two new schools. She is pushing ahead to solve the serious environmental sewer outflow problem that previous councils had ignored for the last 20 years. But she needs support on the council.
We urge you to vote in the June 12 primary, open to Democrats and Republicans, to keep Silberberg as our mayor. Because she can’t do it alone, we also ask you to vote in a whole new city council – folks who will listen to the concerns of citizens, stand up for the environment and our neighborhoods and consider the needs of the small businesses that make our city special. We have a number of new and fresh candidates for city council, who bring the values, skills, experience and interests that are important to avoid a Karig property repeat. Check them out.
-Jane Seward and Lynn Gas, Alexandria