The "spite fence" that has split the Dowden Terrace subdivision into its separate city of Alexandria and Fairfax County parts, yesterday brought both sides of the barricade closer together.
In a noon protest complete with pickets and placards ("Barriers Are Ugly" and "Neighbors Divided Cannot Stand") 50 neighbors come together to boo the fence that marks the city-county border.
"The majority of both sides are against the baricades," said Fairfax resident Oswald D. Tolley, joining the ring of protesters perspiring in the 94-degree heat. "I think the people are coming together."
Although the neighbors see eye-to-eye through the ugly chain links, the city of Alexandria and Fairfax County are still locked in a bitter dispute over commuter traffic. One Alexandria city councilman characterizes it as "making the problems in the Middle East look tame by comparison."
Alexandria erected two 24-foot chain link fences across two Dowden Terrace streets on June 12, blocking Fairfax commuter traffic that was by-passing the congested area of Bailey's Crossroads. The City Council said the measure was in response to complaints from Alexandria residents who said their quiet tree-lined streets were turning into speedways.
"I think the problems could have been avoided by not erecting such an ugly looking fence," said Alexandria City councilman Robert L. Calhoun.
City Manager Douglas Harmon agreed. "I feel bad about the aesthetics," he said.
Immediately after the barricades went up, Fairfax County filed suit against the city of Alexandria to remove the eyesores. The county also complained that the fences posed an impediment to fire protection in the area. The case is scheduled to be heard in Alexandria Circuit Court next week.
Fairfax Supervisor Alan H. Magazine (D-Mason), who joined the protesters yesterday, said the fence had become a "Berlin Wall" which has "fractured the relationship between the city and the county, fractured relationships in the community."
Alexandria Mayor Frank Mann yesterday called Fairfax County "arrogan" and said, "I thought it [building the fence] was a good thing to do and I still do. But whether we're right or wrong, it's none of their [Fairfax County's] damn business."
Calhoun said the issue, festering since 1973, erupted last summer when Fairfax County agreed to extend nearby Lucy Blvd, which joined the black community of Springdale with Dowden Terrace.
"Historically, it does have some racial flavor," Calhoun said. "And it's been made bitter by the personalities. It's poisoned the whole neighborhood."
Several black Springdale residents joined the protest yesterday.
Mayor Mann said the racial issue "is just a plain, flat-out lie. The amount of traffic going through there was horrendous. We found a solution to the problem and now Fairfax is teed off."