One Person's Opinion

No one who has worked closely over the years with Alexandria City Manager Philip G. Sunderland could fail to have enormous respect for his industry, integrity and talent in serving the citizens of Alexandria. That fact was the basis of Catherine R. Clement's spirited letter to the editor ["Defending Sunderland," Extra, June 24]. Although she serves as an assistant city attorney, she, like any resident of the city, is entitled to hold and express her opinion on the public issues of the day and to debate with others, including Townsend A. "Van" Van Fleet, in public discourse about those issues.

Her personal views and the expression of those views, however, should not be confused with the position of the Alexandria city attorney's office. In interacting with the public, the members of my office seek to afford every Alexandria resident courtesy and respect, whether we are in agreement on a particular issue or not. In that context, characterizing the comments or opinions of a city resident as "ignorant" or "ludicrous" is neither appropriate nor helpful, and I apologize to anyone who might believe that such sentiments reflect the attitude of the city attorney's office toward Van Fleet or any other resident -- they do not.

Ignacio B. Pessoa

Alexandria City Attorney

First Baptist Should Stay

Arlington is on the verge of losing yet another piece of its history. As recently reported by the nonprofit Arlington Heritage Alliance in its fourth annual "Most Endangered Historic Places" list, the owners of the First Baptist Church of Clarendon, citing financial difficulties, are proposing to demolish the historic church and, in its place, erect a 10-story high-rise apartment building. This would be wrong for the surrounding neighborhood and wrong for Arlington.

The proposed 10-story tower would be completely out of place and would overshadow -- both figuratively and literally -- the modest single-family homes that surround the church on two sides. The character of the historic neighborhood in which the church sits would be destroyed. Fortunately, current zoning, land use and site plans all prohibit the proposed church demolition and new high-rise construction. The Arlington County Board was wise to enact these protections for the benefit of the surrounding neighborhood and the preservation of Arlington's unique character. However, the church's owners are now seeking waivers from these rules in order to allow the high-rise construction. This would set a dangerous precedent in Arlington, which is faced with strong development pressure to raze its beautiful historic buildings in the name of progress.

As stated by the Arlington Heritage Alliance in its report, the First Baptist Church of Clarendon is "an important visual landmark in the historic heart of Clarendon," which "contribute[s] to the historic character of Clarendon." A church has been located on that site for nearly a century. We should not tear down a beautiful historic landmark to make way for a high-rise building. Let's preserve our endangered historic places. Keep the church. Preserve Arlington's history!

Bruce Gipe

Andrew Betourney