An Alexandria developer who is a business partner of state Del. David G. Speck (R-Alexandria) has withdrawn his controversial request for an emergency rezoning hearing on a plan to buy an apartment complex because of the negative responses the request generated.
The developer, Charles T. Akre Jr., wrote the Alexandria City Council that he would refile the request under regular zoning procedures to allow a "thorough examination" of the issues involved.
When Speck and Akre first made the request in January, council member Donald C. Casey, a Democrat, angrily said the council was being asked to "grease the skids" for them because Speck, a Republican, is a politician.
Speck and Akre have denied that they sought political favoritism. Since then, citizens groups have expressed concern about project.
The business partners are trying to purchase 17 apartments at Russell Road and King Street and convert them to condominiums. The complex now is under two zoning classifications, one of which prohibits such conversions.
Akre asked the City Council on Jan. 8 to direct the city planning commission to consider his proposed zoning change this month, rather than wait for the commission's March meeting. The council granted his request, but only after a heated discussion of the appearance of a partnership with a politician seeking special consideration.
The planning commission gives the council guidance on zoning matters. In his letter, Akre said he would present his proposal before the commission in April, and before that hearing would meet with residents' groups and explain the plans to them.
Citizens in the Rosemont community are concerned about the proposed conversion because it would be the first conversion of increasingly scarce rental units in that neighborhood. If approved, it would set a precedent for the conversion of other rental units that would be almost impossible for city officials to deny.
Speck, a freshman legislator, has said in interviews that the partnership is not seeking a favor from the city, and that he has been attacked unjustly, since he had made a full disclosure of his role in the business.
Speck said city officials had suggested that he and Akre seek the zoning change to eliminate what he said the officials called an error in zoning.
"If we had perceived it as asking for a special favor, we would not have done it," Speck said of the initial request for an early hearing.