The Alexandria citizen group that has been fighting the city’s waterfront plan since last summer announced Thursday that it has collected enough petition signatures to force a super-majority vote by the City Council. But the city attorney said he doesn’t think the petition is valid.
Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront said Thursday that it has more than 200 signed petitions from residential and commercial property owners who own land within 300 feet of the waterfront zone. They hope to stop the City Council from passing the waterfront redevelopment plan Saturday.
“The current city plan has been tainted by what we consider a cozy relationship with developers and a very poor relationship with citizens,” said Andrew McDonald, a CAAWP co-founder. “The community is beginning to feel that this incredibly cozy relationship ... has influenced their decision-making.”
City attorney James Banks, who reviewed the petition Thursday, said that Faroll Hamer, Alexandria’s director of planning and zoning, has the authority to decide whether the petition is valid. His advice, he said, is to deny the petition.
“In my view, this is not even a close one,” he said in an interview with local reporters. “It’s hard for me to believe that any experienced attorney could look at this” the way that the petitioners have.
Hamer, who was not available for an interview, will most likely issue her judgment just before the City Council starts its public hearing and vote Saturday morning. More than 100 people have signed up to speak and more are expected.
The waterfront plan, which underwent two years of public meetings, was unveiled last spring by Hamer. Opponents soon arose, charging that it allowed too much development, particularly hotels, at the cost of open public space and historic amenities.
According to statute, a zoning map can be protested by owners of at least 20 percent of the land proposed to be rezoned or all land within 300 feet of the boundaries of the land proposed to be changed by a map amendment. Banks repeated what Hamer has previously said: The waterfront redevelopment plan is not a zoning map amendment, but a text amendment.
CAAWP also revived its previous charges that Mayor William D. Euille has a conflict of interest because he has a stake in Mango Mike’s restaurant on the West End of Alexandria. That restaurant is owned by a man who has a stake in the waterfront restaurant Virtue Feed and Grain. Euille has previously disclosed the link and said he has no financial interest in any waterfront development.
CAAWP also called on vice mayor Kerry Donley to recuse himself from the vote because he is employed by Virginia Commerce Bank, which gave Virtue a business loan. Donley told The Washington Post two weeks ago that he had no role in the loan. McDonald, when pressed by reporters, said he had seen “evidence” that Donley was involved, but could not produce or describe it.
Another council member, Frank Fannon, is a member of the Old Dominion Boat Club, which is fighting an effort by the city to remove its waterfront parking lot and boat launch, and grant public access along the water. But McDonald and CAAWP did not call for Fannon to recuse himself.
“I can’t speak to that,” McDonald said. “I don’t see it in the same way. He doesn’t financially benefit from his membership ... you’ll have to ask him about it.”
In addition to the boat club property, the waterfront plan would allow three warehouses to be rezoned, and that rezoning could allow hotels. Two of the warehouses are owned by Robinson Terminal Warehouse Co., a subsidiary of The Washington Post Co. CAAWP has objected to city discussions with Robinson and Post Co. officials about the fate of the terminals’ land after the company sued the city over a previous rezoning.
This post has been updated since it was first published.