The Alexandria Planning Commission last week approved a request to allow a United Parcel Service distribution center to be built on a piece of land already approved for parking for the proposed Van Dorn Metrorail station.
City Manager Douglas Harman said, however, that the planning commission decision will be appealed to the City Council, which can override the planning commission vote. The City Council approved the site for Metro in May, 1976.
The site in question is on Eisenhower Avenue east of Van Dorn street in Alexandria. The platform station itself would be in Fairfax County, but the parking spaces and off-street passenger and bus drop-off points are in Alexandria, according to a Metro spokesman. The station would be part of the Springfield-Franconia line.
The land is owned by Southern Railway System, which approved use of the site for Metro station parking in 1975. But according to a letter sent to Alexandria Mayor Frank E. Mann last week, Southern now supports the building of the $1.8 million distribution facility on the site.
Southern Railway Director James O. Picone noted that when Southern and the City Council agreed to the proposed Metro station, "there was no reason to believe that WMATA's Springfield line would not be built as scheduled. In the intervening time since that approval was given, the future of the Springfield line has become doubtful, to say the least."
Currently, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Urban Mass Transit Administration are reanalyzing Metro, trying to determine if the entire 100-mile system is necessary.
At a planning commission meeting that lasted into the early morning hours, commission members heard several representatives of the Chamber of Commerce urge approval of the UPS request because of its positive impact on taxes, and a spokeswoman for the Northern Virginia Urban League asked that it be approved because it could mean a boost in minority employment.
A spokesman for the Chamber of Commerce noted that the new facility would add $52,000 annually in taxes to the city treasury. Speakers also said there is other land available for Metro parking that is adjacent to the site in question.
But W. Earl Long, urban planner for the Virginia portion of Metro, said that the other available land would mean shifting the Metro station to a site that the City Council and Southern Railway strongly opposed when Metro first developed a plan for the station.
"We've tried to accommodate the views of the local jurisdictions and a major property owner (Southern)," Long said. "The parking is an integral part of our overall station."
Allowing the distribution center to be built would cause serious delays because the station would have to be redesigned, Long said. He said the station was to have been completed by 1981.
Alexandria City Councilman Robert L. Calboun said that he hopes a compromise can be reached with Southern Railway, whereby construction of a distribution facility would be held off until the Metrorail alternatives analysis study is completed.