The passage of the Alexandria waterfront proposal Saturday night left strong opinions unaltered, at least on the part of those who have been battling the city since last May.
Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront, the group that organized to oppose the city proposal, planned to regroup to decide in the next few days what their next step will be, co-founder Andrew Macdonald said Saturday night.
“They didn’t vote to bring the community together,” he said within an hour of the 5-2 City Council vote. “I see it as a real failure of leadership.”
City officials sent out a press release just as quickly, pointing out the changes adopted to the controversial plan. As planners said, this is a framework and many decisions have yet to be made. Here are the highlights; I’ve rephrased some of these points for clarity:
The Alexandria waterfront plan, as passed,
• Cuts by one-third the number of hotels and hotel rooms allowed to be built on the waterfront; the limit is two hotels with 150 rooms each.
• Requires developers to make parking available to residents and would bar non-residential on-street parking south of King Street after 6 p.m.
• Requires development proposals to be reviewed by the Old and Historic District Board of Architectural Review.
• Underscores building heights on each development parcel.
Important note: City planners last year also removed a parking structure with a restaurant on top that had once been envisioned on the waterfront; the park at the foot of King Street remains in the plan and is considered a centerpiece of the redevelopment of the area. I misquoted vice mayor Kerry Donley on that point, which confused the issue. We’ll have a correction on that soon.
The changes did not appease opponents. Like many other issues in recent years, it seems the combatants are looking at the same world and seeing different realities.
Proponents said that after three years, 150 public meetings and a six-month delay while a group of citizens tried to find common ground, it was time to vote.
“It’s critically important to the city’s future that this plan be approved today,” said former council member and General Assembly delegate David Speck.
Resident Richard Moose, after criticizing the city’s waterfront planning decisions, noted the historic 1860s painting of the city that dominates the council chambers on a wall behind the council dais.
“Perhaps that’s the problem,” he said. “From where you sit, you cannot see the Alexandria the rest of us do.”
To close, two videos: One made by the city to show the benefits of the waterfront plan, the other made by CAAWP with a different point of view.