A closely divided Alexandria City Council rejected key revisions of a plan to change Windmill Hill Park and decided Saturday instead to keep the park's longtime but controversial dog run where it is.
By a 4-3 vote, the council also rejected a proposed revision to move the park's volleyball court next to the basketball court after residents complained that the move would take away open grassy space where numerous leisure activities take place.
"I think over a period of months, it became increasingly obvious that the slightest change in the DNA of the park created problems that were unsolvable," said Council member Joyce Woodson, (D), whose swing vote overturned the plan to implement the revisions in the latest action in a tumultuous, two-year debate.
"The slightest move would create this avalanche of problems."
Those problems, according to Old Town residents who resisted the changes, included moving the dog park, which has been at its current location for 30 years. The proposal would have moved the park farther from the waterfront to a site nearby.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," said resident George Boteler, one of dozens of speakers at the council meeting who opposed the change.
"[You're] trying to correct a problem that doesn't exist."
Residents also objected to moving the volleyball court because it would have been placed in a grassy area where park goers participate in several free-floating activities, including kite flying and sledding.
They also contended that it could be potentially dangerous if sand from the volleyball court spilled onto the basketball court. Officials had proposed moving the volleyball court to make room for the new dog run.
Council members who supported moving the dog run said they did so for environmental reasons.
They said that having the dog park near the water posed health and sanitation risks because feces could contaminate the water. They also said the waterfront space could be used for something else.
Council member Claire Eberwein (R) expressed shock at the vote. Eberwein, who strongly supported the changes as being in the best interest of the city, offered sharp remarks about colleagues who voted against the revisions.
"Some people don't make the best decisions under pressure," she said, implying that the election May 6 may have affected the vote. "I'm very disappointed, but I think as a public policy decision it's wrong."
Council member David G. Speck (D), who voted with Eberwein, said, "If this is a victory, it's a joyless one. I hope we can learn from this."
Mayor Kerry J. Donley (D) also supported moving the park.
The City Council approved minor changes to beautify the park. They include:
* Installing pedestrian crosswalks across Union Street where the new pathway from the Wilkes Street tunnel meets Union Street.
* Removing the asphalt parking lot east of Union along Gibbon Street and installing family-oriented equipment and furniture.
* Reseeding the area between Union Street and the basin, providing additional plantings and installing family-oriented equipment and furniture.
* Increasing wattage of lighting in the Wilkes Street tunnel.