Alexandria Vice Mayor Patricia S. Ticer denied last night that she had a conflict of interest over a proposal to grant a special use permit, but left a City Council meeting before a vote on the permit was taken in order to avoid the appearance of conflict.
After Ticer departed, saying "the public perception" was that her vote would violate Virginia's conflict-of-interest law, and after 4 1/2 hours of debate, the council voted early today 6 to 0 to deny the permit to Eden Hannon & Co.
It would have permitted the financial consulting firm to conduct business in the Anchorage House at 603 Queen St., which is in a residential area.
The building is now wholly residential, and some of those who live in apartments there criticized Ticer, a real estate agent, for voting with the rest of the council to approve a change in zoning regulations in December.
That change facilitated the $670,000 sale of the pre-Civil War house, which was handled by her employer, the real estate firm of Jacob & Roberts Inc.
The permit was also opposed by the influential Old Town Citizens Association on grounds that commercial uses should be barred from the neighborhood of historic homes.
Greg Eden, president of Eden Hannon, said before the vote that denied the permit that the firm would not have purchased the house without assurance that a permit would be granted. He refused to comment on his company's plans after the vote.
Ticer said before leaving the council meeting last night, "Hindsight is a wonderful thing. This situation would never have occurred if I had abstained earlier."
She said that last October she consulted City Attorney Cyril D. Calley in connection with the impending vote. Ticer said he told her he believed she would not violate state law by voting on matters involving Anchorage House.
The state conflict of interest law affects only those with a 3 percent interest or more in a firm involved in a business dealing or with income of more than $10,000 a year from it.
Ticer participated in two votes last Dec. 15. The first changed the zoning code to allow financial consultants to conduct business in primarily residential blocks if they obtained a special use permit.
The second granted Eden Hannon such a permit. The permit was later voided -- setting the stage for last night's repeat vote on it -- because Eden Hannon failed to notify nearby property owners of its renovation plans for the four-story building.
In voting at 12:50 this morning to deny the permit, council members said they had not realized at the time of the December vote that the firm planned to build an addition on the west side of the 132-year-old structure and employ as many as 40 people there.
In other action, the council unanimously approved City Manager Vola Lawson's recommendation to begin an administrative review of the Public Safety Department in June.
The review, Lawson said, will assess the administrative management and policies in the department, which is headed by Director Charles T. Strobel. A special grand jury recently said allegations that Strobel improperly halted a 1984 police drug investigation were "baseless and unfounded."