The "spite fences" are here to stay.
Alexandria Circuit Court Judge Wiley R. Wright Jr. yesterday dismissed lawsuits filed by Fairfax County and private citizens challenging the chainlink barricades that block two Dowden Terrace side streets at the city county border.
The Alexandria City Council had the fences erected in June after a bitter, five-year dispute with Fairfax over commuter traffic through the subdivision.
After two days of testimony from city and county officials on the merits of the fences, dubbed the "Berlin Wall" by residents. Wright said Fairfax County had produced no evidence that the 24-foot-long fences constituted anything more than an "inconvenience."
Therefore, Wright said, the county had no standing in the case because it could not show that a single resident had suffered "injury" as a result of the barricades.
John D. Horner, an Alexandria real estate salesman who joined Fairfax in the suit, said outside the court-room that he was now forced to drive several blocks to avoid the fences, "stopping at every damn stop sign. It's the most absurd thing I've ever seen."
Assistant Fairfax County Attorney Edward J. Finnegan argued in court that the barricades impeded emergency response time to the fenced-in area. Fairfax Rescue Services director George H. Alexander also testified that the delay could run up to one minute, which he termed "significant."
Terence Cooke, assistant Alexandria city attorney, pointed out in testimony that the delay was actually lessened because of the decrease in commuter traffic since the barricades went up. Cooke produced traffic count figures that showed that in a one-week period, commuter traffic bypassing the Baileys Crossroads interchange by cutting through the streets of Dowden Terrace decreased by 14,000 vehicles.
Although Wright ruled yesterday that the city had acted properly and within its authority in erecting the "traffic control measure," Alexandria officials said the five-foot-high fences will get a facelift.
"I don't think anyone could seriously argue," Cooke said outside the courtroom, "that the fences aren't ugly as sin."