An Alexandria city employe used a four-foot-long bolt cutter yesterday to reclaim for the public a few hundred square yards of land and access to the Potomac River's edge that has been fenced off for years by a yacht club.
Clemmie Johnson wielded the cutter at 8:07 a.m. in the name of the Alexandria City Council, which only hours earlier had decreed that the Old Dominion Boat Club's fence at the foot of King Street must come down. Once a half-inch-thick chain was cut to open a gate, Johnson and other workers removed the fence.
The 99-year-old private boat club claims title to the land, which separates King Street, a major east-west thoroughfare, from the river. The fence has stood since the 1940s.
The club went to Alexandria Circuit Court late yesterday to contest the city's action.
But Circuit Judge Albert H. Grenadier denied a request for a temporary restraining order, ruling that the club faces no substantial threat to its property.
The judge criticized the city for "precipitous action" in removing the fence without officially notifying the club and said the city must carry out its plan to erect new fences near the sides of the boat club property and accept financial responsibility for any damage to that property.
The council, which also claims the land in question, decided to remove the fence after lengthy negotiations with the club broke down.
Attorney Howard Middleton, representing the city, told Grenadier the city acted after the boat club had consistently refused to respond directly to either its legal analysis of the title dispute or a proposed financial settlement.
Attorney Grayson P. Hanes said, on behalf of the boat club, that the city's offer was scheduled to be discussed by the boat club membership next week. Hanes also said that the boat club intended to file a suit against the city to protect its rights.