Waterfront Plan


The Supreme Court of Virginia dismissed a petition to rehear the Iron Ladies petition challenging the zoning underlying the City's Waterfront Plan. The zoning changes increased the amount of development on the Plan's three major parcels and permits two hotels. The Plan now moves forward and likely will restrict resident access to the waterfront and exacerbate traffic and parking problems.
The City has doubled up meetings and compressed review times to push through their Waterfront plans at the South Robinson Terminal, North Robinson Terminal, Carr Hotel, and flood mitigation. Four meetings were scheduled for one week-two on the same night-and one with less than 24-hours' notice.
The members of the Old Dominion Boat Club agreed to move to a different location at a hefty cost to Alexandria's taxpayers of $5 million, so the City can have its prime location.
Residents continue to protest the design of the Carr hotel in the Waterfront area - at Duke and South Union Streets - that included a petition to the Board of Architectural Review.
City Council approved the proposal by Carr City Centers to build a huge hotel in the Waterfront area by a 6-0 vote with Allison Silverberg absent.
The Planning Commission approved a proposal by Carr City Centers to build a hotel in the Waterfront area—at Duke and South Union Streets—that would be 40 percent bigger than the approved plan allows. One citizen has described it as “an obese Motel 6.” The developer has asked for an increase in height from 30 to 50 feet, an increase in FAR from 1.0 to 3.0, and a parking reduction from 4 to 1. It also asked that the restaurant not have to provide parking for its customers. City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposal at its meeting on January 25, starting at 9:30 am, 2nd floor City Hall, 301 King Street.
Waterfront lawsuit was on the Supreme Court of VA June docket. It was dismissed in August.
The City dropped the BZA lawsuit and wrote to the Virginia Supreme Court suggesting that the case of the “iron ladies”—they had sued the City because they were not allowed to submit petitions to require a super majority on the first Waterfront vote—is moot. Apparently the Supreme Court was unimpressed with that argument. The Waterfront lawsuit is on its June docket.
The Planning Commission and City Council approved the retry of the Waterfront Plan despite significant opposition. Not sure if this was legal, since the case is still in the Virginia Court and the item was stayed. The Washington Post Company will benefit from the increased zoning on its two waterfront properties, slated to become hotels and/or residential units.
SHA's Board of Directors held a Special Executive meeting to pass a resolution opposed to the proceedings to pass a new Waterfront Text Amendment before the Virginia Court decision on the failed process last year that had stayed this plan.
The City of Alexandria’s suit against its own Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) will go to trial in April 2013 in the Virginia Circuit Court.
The City of Alexandria’s suit against its own Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) is in the Virginia Circuit Court. The BZA overturned the City’s Planning Director Faroll Hamer’s decision that a protest petition related to Waterfront rezoning was invalid. Not sure how the legal representation works when the City sues itself, but fear the taxpayers pay for it all! The City said it was not required to give the BZA legal representation. This suit does not block the Waterfront Plan approval just the reasoning of the property.
Mayor Euille announced that the City will appeal the decision of Alexandria’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) to the Virginia Circuit Court. The BZA overturned the planning director’s decision that a protest petition related to Waterfront rezoning was invalid. Not sure how the legal representation works when the City sues itself, but fear the taxpayers pay for it all!
Alexandria’s Board of Zoning Appeals overturned the Planning Director’s decision by a vote of 4-2 that a protest petition, filed by residents regarding the zoning changes for the Waterfront Plan, was invalid. The ruling does not overturn the new Waterfront Plan, which was approved on January 21 and incorporated into the City’s Master Plan on February 25. This ruling does affect the implementation of the Plan’s increased zoning provisions for properties on the Waterfront.
Citizens opposed to the City’s Waterfront Plan took legal action to block the Council’s approved Plan from implementation. SHA had opposed changes to the W-1 zone but is not involved in the legal suit.
Over SHA and citizen objections, Alexandria’s City Council approved (5-2) changes to the Waterfront Plan that allows more height and density for three properties—two landowners—in the Waterfront area than is currently allowed in the W-1 zone and included eminent domain as a way to accomplish the plan’s goals. Some citizens are discussing legal action to block the plan.
SHA passed a motion asking the Mayor and City Council to vote “no” on the Waterfront Plan and direct staff to provide a plan within the existing W-1 zoning that included the parcel in north Old Town available since the GenOn Power Plant was closed.
Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan (CAAWP) presented its vision for an alternative waterfront plan that is available online at http://alternativealexandriawaterfrontplan.com. Basic differences between the plans: the City plan would raise densities on 8 blocks and remove the 55’ limit while theCAAWP plan would not change the current W-1 zoning with a 55’ limit and would plan for the City to purchase property for open/park space adjacent to the water.
The City’s Waterfront Plan Work Group continues to draft its plan for the Waterfront that would increase zoning and density. A citizen group called Waterfront4All is lobbying on behalf of this plan.
The City’s Waterfront Plan Work Group held a public session where citizens expressed their likes and dislikes.
The City’s Waterfront Work Group (CWWG) continues to support raising density for a few properties without adding any additional open space than is currently required. (Note: The piers are owned by the National Park Service but they are counted as new open space. Each is about an acre.) Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan (CAAWP) are opposed to some of this plan preferring the existing zoning. They are also researching and designing a plan that would attract residents and tourists rather than just putting hotels on the water. The CWWG has scheduled a public hearing at the Cameron Station community room, on Cameron Station Bouleveard, on Wednesday, October12, at 5:30 pm. The CAAWP will present its alternate plan at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street, on Sunday, October 30, from 5-8 pm.

City Staff’s plan for the Alexandria Waterfront was not well received by citizen groups, who organized against it—Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan (CAAWP)—because it would allow hotels, restaurants, and large buildings to be built that would block river access and views in Old Town. City Council responded by establishing a Work Group under the direction of Councilman Paul Smedberg and a well-paid mediator to develop another plan. Meanwhile, CAAWP is researching successful waterfront plans in US cities and offering suggestions to the new Work Group.

The focus of the staff’s plan first plan was economics without regard to the existing conditions or the future impact of proposed developments. In a veiled way, it called for the elimination of the W-1 zoning that restricts heights of structures on the Waterfront. Under this new vague CCD zoning, two historical buildings could have been demolished and one property could have been built so high that it would have blocked the view of the Potomac River now enjoyed on Duke Street. The flood wall proposed in that plan was inexpensive and designed for a 10 year event—verses a 20, 50 or 100 year flood wall—meaning every 10 years, on average, Old Town would flood. Without an adequate flood plan, insurance rates would remain stiff in the flood plain. CAAWP is working on a more viable plan influenced by the expertise of urban planners, like those who did Baltimore Harbor. CAAWP notes that FEMA recommends structures in a flood plain be built at least 100 feet from the river.