To the editor:
Many residents were relieved when the city’s planning director briefed its rezoning report to the public since it concluded there would be no recommendation to raise height limits. This decision was based on a valid and reliable analysis. That said, it’s apparent to me there are several issues that need the application of this methodology too.
My first concern is adding density. For this plan to be successful, it is critical Alexandria’s infrastructure planning be done and completed in advance of any increased density. To wit, The American Water Company has already admitted to residents that recent breaks in water main pipes are due to the new dense units requiring more water pressure.
Second is there is no mention of design standards. In my opinion, it is essential any new buildings in Alexandria should respect the ambiance of that neighborhood. I cannot imagine ruining the wonderful atmosphere one experiences driving or walking through Del Ray and Rosemont and other areas of Alexandria. Standards for design and compatibility are vital to continue attracting visitors and home buyers to our city.
Another serious concern is the city’s intent to reduce parking under the aegis of getting people out of cars. Isn’t this putting the cart before the horse? Already, local residents are having trouble finding parking on the street close to their homes. While I am a strong advocate of encouragingly less auto usage, and more walking, biking and using public transportation, this is just not possible for most residents. The city’s team should ask and answer some serious questions before eliminating more parking:
• How many city employees use only public transportation?
• Do the mayor and City Council drive and park in the free city garage?
• What about those who commute to another state daily?
• Why the need to reduce parking prior to the new buildings being determined?
• How many parents take their children to school, doctors, church or recreation fields on bikes or on public transportation?
These data are critical before continuing with reduced parking plans. When there is less parking in residential areas, a morale issue is created with neighbors vying for the remaining spots. It’s hard to believe this is the city’s intent – yet it’s already happening.
Another example is in Old Town when new restaurants were given additional seats but with reduced garage spaces. This has led to battles for on-street parking with local residents having garage entries blocked and being harassed.
The answer of course is for the city’s team to apply the scientific approach it used for not raising height limits to these three issues: Infrastructure, design standards and parking. This will ensure a plan that residents are more likely to endorse.
What is critical: City planners need to realize the legacy being created for Alexandria for years ahead. City planners should not forget the many before them who spent years creating our unique city with its varied, beautiful neighborhoods.
-Linda Couture, Alexandria