Two Alexandria civic groups, including the influential Old Town Civic Association, have submitted briefs and letters to a U.S. District Court judge objecting to the terms of the recent agreement between the city and the federal government over future development of the city's waterfront.
The citizens are hoping the agreement worked out to resolve a dispute of many years over ownership of the waterfront land will be redrawn to correct what they regard as potentially disastrous deficiencies.
The Old Town Civic Association, many of whose approximately 700 members live or own property near the waterfront, contends in its letter to U.S. District Judge John Penn that there is inadequate means of enforcing the zoning provisions of the waterfront plan drawn up by the National Park Service and the city. The plan calls for height limitations of 15 to 30 feet on the five parcels of city land in question. The civic association wants to see citizens given the standing to sue if the current zoning provisions are not adhered to.
"We would like a legitimate role in watching what happens to the zoning. We've appealed to the judge as an arbiter of what the public interest is," said Jim Sharf, head of the association's waterfront committee. Sharf says he has been told by city officials that "one city council is not bound by the last one's zoning" and he fears that if the council changes, the zoning will too, and citizens will be left with no recourse.
The primary objection of the Northern Virginia Conservation Council's brief, submitted by Ellen Pickering, that group's president, is what she termed a "tragic flaw" in the plan that allows the city to sell land it was given title to in the agreement to private parties. "We're not going to get the limited-use waterfront we planned on," Pickering asserted yesterday. "People don't realize it yet. They'll be very surprised when we get a Baltimore Harbor instead."
Alexandria City Attorney Cyril D. Calley said yesterday that while he cannot predict what the judge will rule, he does not foresee any serious alteration of the agreement, which he described as providing adequate recourse for citizens unhappy with its details. "These groups are trying to get the federal government to intervene to prevent development," Calley said yesterday. "It's a local problem and they don't trust the local people."
The civic activists involved in the flurry don't argue with that. "The city is ravenous for income that would be produced in that area," Sharf said yesterday. "That's prime sirloin as far as a carniverous City Council is concerned."