To the editor:
This past week at a symposium on housing in Alexandria, Mayor Justin Wilson characterized the city’s zoning codes as “a poisoned tree.” That reminded me that in the late 1990s I was appointed as a member of a citizen task force to review those same codes. They had been challenged on the grounds of fairness by landowners.
For me that fairness term included most particularly finding any racial bias that might be embedded in the codes. It was an era when redlining by real estate interests to exclude Blacks from certain neighborhoods had been uncovered in many cities. Our group was headed by Bill Hurd, then the chair of the Alexandria Planning Commission. Over several months our task force examined the zoning code meticulously.
In the end we found no racial bias or other substantive instances of unfairness to any group of Alexandria residents in the ordinances themselves. The task force recommended only tweaks to the codes, in the form of two or three minor amendments.
Unfortunately, the task force report has gone missing. My request to the Office of Planning and Zoning recently brought back the response that while the existence of the task force is acknowledged, our report cannot be found archived anywhere in city files. My own copy long since has been lost. I am hopeful that renewed efforts will find the report somewhere.
In the meantime, Wilson is alleging that this same code is a “poisoned tree” bearing “poisoned fruit” but he does not, and perhaps cannot, point out specific offending ordinances. It is just a blanket condemnation.
Alexandria homeowners need proof not just invective.
-Jack Sullivan, Alexandria