Alexandria Vice Mayor Patricia S. Ticer, a real estate agent, initiated a City Council vote that made a change in zoning regulations that later facilitated the sale by the firm she works for of a pre-Civil War building in the city's Old Town area.
Residents of the building, the Anchorage House at 603 Queen St., have questioned whether Ticer's action violated the state's conflict-of-interest law by introducing an amendment that allowed Jacob & Roberts Inc., her employer, to handle the sale of the building to a financial consulting company on Dec. 15. The price was $670,000.
Commonwealth's Attorney John E. Kloch said yesterday he was not familiar with Ticer's financial ties to Jacob & Roberts. He said that his reading of the state conflict-of-interest law is that if Ticer does not own 3 percent of the firm or receive more than $10,000 a year in income from it, she did not violate the law by voting on issues concerning the building.
Ticer was not involved as an agent in the sale. Charles Snead, who handled the transaction for Jacob & Roberts, would not disclose what the commission was on the sale. However, other area real estate agents said the average commission on similar sales is 10 percent.
Kloch said he is not investigating the incident but that he would look into it if a council member or city resident brought him a formal complaint.
Ticer, 51, a council member since 1982, did not return repeated phone calls yesterday and City Attorney Cyril D. Calley declined comment on whether he was advising Ticer on the conflict-of-interest question.
Calley did say he expected the matter to be discussed during tonight's City Council meeting. The council is expected to vote again on whether Eden Hannon & Co., the firm that purchased Anchorage House, should be granted a special use permit for the building.
Without the permit, Eden Hannon cannot conduct business in the four-story building, erected in 1853, because the block is zoned primarily for residential use.
On Dec. 15, two weeks before the Anchorage House sale, Ticer voted on a zoning code amendment which would allow financial consultants to conduct business in primarily residential sections of the city if they obtained a special use permit. On the same day, Ticer voted with the six other council members to grant Eden Hannon such a special permit.
The council must take a second vote tonight on the special permit because Eden Hannon failed to notify property owners near the Anchorage House of its renovation intentions, violating a city code requirement and voiding the Dec. 15 permit.
Mayor Charles E. Beatley said yesterday that on conflict-of-interest matters, council members not only have to deal with the "de facto violation, but the problem of public perception."
Carson Lee Fifer Jr., an attorney for Eden Hannon, said his firm would never have purchased the building, "if we weren't assured we would be granted a special use permit" to occupy the building.
Henry J. Cappello, who lives near Anchorage House, said that he will attend tonight's meeting to protest the granting of the special permit and to make sure the question of whether Ticer should have a vote in the matter is addressed. About 30 Old Town residents are expected to attend the meeting because of their interest in the issue, according to Cappello and others.
"A lot of the neighbors are angry" said Andrea Dimond, president of the Old Town Civic Association. "They don't want commercial buildings ruining the historic buildings or their neighborhood."