The public is welcome to utilize the Waterfront Comment Board to submit comments or questions related to the draft Waterfront Small Area Plan. All comments are important. They will be categorized by subject area and addressed in that format. Responses will be posted prior to the Small Area Plan public hearings. In the meantime, please also check the Frequently Asked Questions link on the waterfront website for common questions/comments raised during the process to-date and the responses to them.
Press Release January 19, 2012 In arguing that the City Council should pass their waterfront plan this Saturday without further debate, George Mason’s Steven Fuller, a long-time consultant for developers, sounds more like a salesman than a scholar. Alexandria, VA— Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan (CAAWP) released the following response by Old Town resident Dick Cooper to a letter written by Steven Fuller in support of the City’s waterfront plan. Fuller, a professor of Urban Planning at George Mason University told the Old Town Patch that he was asked “two years ago by the Robinson Terminal Corporation to help it determine ‘what could be done with those sites.’” The Robinson Terminal Corporation recently asked him to write a letter in support of the City’s plan. The letter was submitted to the City Council on January 18 by Duncan Blair, a local attorney for the Robinson Terminal Corporation and Washington Post Company. Blair was involved in numerous ex-parte discussions dating back to 2008 with senior planning staff related to waterfront development that were recently brought to light through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). RESPONSE BY DICK COOPER The report on the Alexandria waterfront by Stephen S. Fuller, director of the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis, was commissioned and paid for by supporters of throwing the last riverfront open to virtually unrestricted commercial development. So it’s not surprising that a document put forward as impartial, expert analysis ends up supporting the outside developers. What is surprising is that Fuller’s analysis actually makes the case for taking a more careful, balanced approach to developing thewaterfront – one that will bolster Alexandria’s whole economy by preserving the things that make it uniquely attractive to businesses and residents alike. First, Fuller recognizes that, in his words, “for Alexandria, the waterfront stands out as its most unique asset that distinguishes it from the region’s other jurisdictions.” He calls it “one of the competitive advantages upon which the city’s future economic vitality is dependent.” Second, he says, for “the ultimate success of the local economy . . . each new use must support the other new uses and must be complementary to the existing commercial and residential uses that define Old Town.” Exactly. Yet the proposal pending before the City Council does nothing to insure that the new pieces fit together and strengthen the economy now or in the future. Instead, it offers a blank check to developers, wiping out the existing zoning rules and putting no binding curbs in their place. One result is that Fuller’s conclusions contradict his own analysis, not to mention present-day reality. “For the Old Town economy to grow and prosper,” he says, “it needs to reestablish its retail base, and broaden its overlapping market segments to attract a diverse consumer base.” But Old Town has a thriving retail base and attracts a wide range of visitors. It also has one of the strongest real estate markets in the United States. And both the businesses and the residential areas serve and enrich all of Alexandria. That’s an inconvenient fact for developers who want to make a quick hit and won’t be around for the consequences. What this whole issue comes down to is a strategic choice for the city: It can build on its present success, or it can chase after the Will- ‘o-the-wisp of mega-development—like Tysons Corners or Pentagon City. Large-scale development – multiple hotels, big condo projects, and big new stores – made sense for Tysons and Pentagon City. They were huge parcels of empty land that nobody had any reason to visit. Alexandria is nothing like that. It has a well established, growing economy based on its unique attractions. The challenge is to keep the city growing without killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. And in arguing for a quick decision, Fuller sounds more like a salesman than a scholar: Grab this deal now, before it’s too late. Alexandria has time to do this right, developing the remaining waterfront just the way Fuller says we should: Carefully, so all the pieces fit together and make the whole even stronger than it is now. Only the outside developers are in a hurry. But it’s not their city. And it’s not their future. It’s ours. Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan (CAAWP) is a group of Alexandria residents who joined forces to oppose the overdevelopment of the waterfront and protect the historic integrity and charm of Old Town. Andrew Macdonald: email@example.com, 603 512 9379 AlternativeAlexandriaWaterfrontPlan.com
Andrew Macdonald (220) | User | January 20, 2012 - 9:44 AM
CAAWP RELEASES NEW VIDEO To see our new video:Log on to AlternativeAlexandriaWaterfrontPlan.comHere's the YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svP8SOUgscY&feature=youtu.be
Andrew Macdonald (220) | User | January 20, 2012 - 9:40 AM
January 19, 2012RE: Waterfront Small Area Plan and Zoning Text Amendment: Master Plan Amendment # 2011-0001, Text Amendment # 2011-0005To the Honorable Mayor Euille, Members of City Council, City Manager, Director of Planning and Zoning:We own 203 The Strand currently occupied by Chadwicks' Restaurant; 205 The Strand currently occupied by Potomac Riverboat Company, Idea Sciences, and Riverside Chiropractic; and 211 The Strand which is a surface parking lot and strip center currently occupied by Mystique Jewelers, Meals on Wheels, and Web Development Group.1. Strikethrough needs to be applied to the following sentence on page 7 of Attachment V (Errata Sheet) to the January 17, 2012 memorandum from the City Manager to City Council: "On this block, the required use facing The Strand above the first floor is boutique hotel." As it reads now, without the strikethrough, hotel is a required use in the Cummings/Turner block.2. City staff explained to the members of the Waterfront Plan Work Group in their December 8, 2011 meeting that there is no language in the Plan or Text Amendment limiting the number of hotels to three or the number of hotels per development site to one. (See our December 18, 2011 e-mail to City Council.) Neither the January 6, 2012 memorandum from the Director of Planning and Zoning or the January 17, 2012 memorandum from the City Manager to City Council recommends adding to the Plan or Text Amendment any actual language limiting the total number of hotels or the number of hotels per development site. This is not a trivial issue. Because of the multiple assertions that have been made, City Council needs to add actual language to the Plan regarding whether there is a limit, or whether there is not a limit, to the number of hotels or the number of hotels per development site. If City Council adopts the proposed Plan and Text Amendment, City Council will be adopting a Plan and Text Amendment without any language in them limiting the number of hotels or the number of hotels per development site.John WhitestoneMatthew Whitestone
Whitestone (279) | User | January 20, 2012 - 12:23 AM
December 18, 2011RE: Waterfront Small Area Plan and Zoning Text Amendment: Master Plan Amendment # 2011-0001, Text Amendment # 2011-0005To Mayor Euille, City Council, and Director Hamer:We own 203 The Strand currently occupied by Chadwicks' Restaurant; 205 The Strand currently occupied by Potomac Riverboat Company; and 211 The Strand which is a surface parking lot and Strip Center currently occupied by Mystique Jewelers, Meals on Wheels, and Web Development Group. 211 The Strand, the surface parking lot and Strip Center, is referred to below as the 'Turner property' or the 'Turner parcel'.December 8, 2011 Waterfront Plan Work Group meeting video at 3 hours 3 minutes:Work Group member Wood: "... it is four hotels with 450 rooms and I just want to for sure say that's what the plan states and it could be amended or adjusted as we might suggest."Director Hamer: "Right. And in our discussions -- our sort of off-line discussions -- what we talked about is the fact that ... we believe what the Planning Commission intended was to say a maximum of three hotels and a maximum of 450 rooms and that -- umm -- that's what the plan ought to reflect."Work Group member Wood: "So the Cummings property [220 South Union Street, currently occupied by The Art League] we've heard about in the Indigo presentation. The Turner property is really the one that's interior in the center of the block -- that you showed in your diagram -- umm -- it's kind of like they're almost -- umm -- precluded at the moment -- umm -- I guess they could build a hotel in that space."Director Hamer: "Well they could also build a hotel jointly with Cummings and it could be a single hotel as long as it didn't exceed the 150 room count -- they also have that option -- so they're not necessarily precluded from doing a hotel, they're just precluded from doing a separate hotel."Work Group member Wood: "Uhh -- they're precluded from doing a separate hotel. Is that the way the current plan sits?"Director Hamer: "No. I don't think it says that, but that's what it could say."And at 3 hours 42 minutes:Work Group member Olinger: "I have to ask a parallel question. Does the 450 hotel rooms have any standards? Now the 50,000 square foot restaurant number doesn't -- how about hotels?"Deputy Director Moritz: "I think as we said there's an explicit limit on the size of the hotels, but Bob [Work Group member Wood] and Faroll sort of had an exchange where Faroll pointed -- ultimately said -- umm -- that that could be stronger -- that there seemed to be a popular perception that the limit was three hotels total but that the language isn't in there and so it could be added. And that we thought that would be okay -- staff thought it would be okay -- because we think it's consistent with what the Planning Commission intended."We request answers to the following questions:1. Is city staff now asserting that Planning Commission's recommendation for development pursuant to 5-504 (D) is that hotel use is a) limited to three hotels total and limited to one hotel per development site or b) limited to three hotels total with no restriction as to how many hotels per development site?2. Is city staff now asserting that Planning Commission's recommendation is that a hotel on the Cummings parcel (220 South Union Street) precludes a separate hotel on the Turner parcel (211 The Strand)?We also request that as soon as possible, and certainly prior to the January Worksession, this issue be memorialized in a memorandum similar to the May 6, 2011 memorandum which memoralized the 150 room per hotel limit. And request to be informed whether or not there will be such a memorandum.John WhitestoneMatthew Whitestone
Whitestone (279) | User | January 20, 2012 - 12:20 AM
I am in favor of a waterfront plan that enhances the unique historic nature of our city and protects and develops open space for the health and wellbeing of our citizens. Density is a health issue. The city's plan increases density and height via zoning changes, essentially burying our greatest environmental and cultural resource. The citizens who oppose the city plan have a broad range of credentials and have educated our community as to the many benefits of a more open plan. Hundreds of signs on every old town street tell the tale: Don't rezone. Take the time to design an extraordinary plan worthy of our historic city.
Nancy Morgan (278) | User | January 20, 2012 - 12:17 AM
The protest petition process is a mechanism which can be employed by those most affected by a zoning change – the immediate neighbors. It enables them to let their voices be heard in a very powerful way. Generally speaking, the way it works is follows: Neighbors representing at least 20% of the land within 300 feet of the proposed zoning boundary must submit signed protest petitions to the City Clerk prior to noon on the last business day before the Council meeting. The Planning Director then rules as to whether the petitions are valid or not and whether their sum represent 20% of the land. If deemed valid by the Planning Director, this forces City Council to have a super majority versus a simple majority in order to pass the zoning change. A super majority is 6-1, meaning only 2 votes are needed to defeat the zoning change. If deemed in invalid, any one (or more) of the petition signatures can file an appeal to the board of zoning appeals. These past few weeks dozens of citizen petitioners went door to door and office to office, up and down the Alexandria waterfront gathering signatures for this effort. They grossly exceed expectations, obtaining hundreds of signatures of both residential and commercial property owners who oppose this zoning change. Combined, these commercial and residential property owners pay millions of dollars per year in taxes to the city – a point which woefully overlooked in this debate. The proverbial ball is in the Planning Directors court. Note that members of the press asked whether this protest as valid as the section 11.808 is titled “map ammendment”. Read section 11.808 and you will see that in section D it clearly states “MAP OR TEXT” ammendment. The protest petition we believe is very solid.
Mark Mueller (275) | User | January 19, 2012 - 5:08 PM
I am an Old Town resident. I agree with Boyd Walker's comments above. I especially object very strongly to the amount of hotel development that is contemplated in the current waterfront plan. This plan and congestion in Old Town that it will cause will destroy the community my husband and I love. I think the City will find it loses MANY OLD TOWN RESIDENTS if it goes through with the plan. Real estate values will fall. Please delay a vote and work to achieve a reasonable alternative along the lines of the CAAWWP. The radical nature of the plan being pushed is WRONG. Is there not enough community backlash to show this. We are not opposed to improvements, but what is planned is not going to improve our town.
Rachel McTague (277) | User | January 19, 2012 - 1:48 PM
There has been no consensus on waterfront re-zoning - not in the work group and not in the community. If anything, the "don't-re-zone the waterfront" posters visible throughout town greatly outnumber any message to the contrary. Therefore, there should be no vote just yet. I greatly appreciate the work of so many people on this issue - volunteers on the work group, and volunteers amongst various community groups. But a deep divide remains on rezoning to allow hotels and increased density. Those issues, amongst others, still need to be resolved before a vote. I oppose the rezoning strongly for community reasons. Hotels and increased density will harm our community. There is a way to improve our waterfront - which needs improvement - within current zoning and density limits - to make it wonderful for everyone...businesses, citizens and visitors. Mixed use and some new restaurants, along with parks - fine! But three hotels with 450 rooms will bring much damage. Yes, hotels bring tourists, but they also do bring cars, buses, traffic, serious environmental considerations, density, privatization of the waterfront and also far too many delivery trucks than our historic streets can handle. I see why business interests want this rezoning - clearly they want to profit from it - but voting residents should have a stronger voice and be heard. Our opposition to hotels and rezoning has not been properly heard versus that of the voices of business interests. We want change...just not this type of change.
Leigh Talbot (235) | User | January 17, 2012 - 9:12 PM
Thanks for all the work on the plan. As an Old Town resident, I am thankful that improvements are in the works and that this has been and will continue to be a very thoughtful and inclusive, yet deliberate and effective, process where comprehensive, innovative, unique and compelling results will be achieved in a timely manner. Old Town needs to keep pace with Georgetown and other areas in modernizing and also celebrating it's rich history and I have confidence we'll all be able to accomplish this. Thanks again.
John Smith (276) | User | January 16, 2012 - 10:30 PM
Dear Patch,This invitation was posted on the Waterfront for All Website, and Ithought it was in very poor taste:Friends,We need your help—and we'll even make it a PARTY!There is much confusion about the waterfront plan because of somereally loud, cranky people who WANT to complain...(but still throw cigarettes on the ground—you know the type, right!)Anyway we want to help clear it up, (the confusion, and thecigarettes!). Our waterfront is one of the most historic seaports inthe US—but doesn't really look like it, and it should.If you care about making our Alexandria waterfront a really specialand beautiful place (for ALL who live here), and want to know the REALplan the city is proposing (it's really great, you'd love it!), here'swhere to be:WHERE you can hear (and be fed)Sunday, 3:00 P.M. at Virtue Feed & Grain106 South Union Street Alexandria, VirginiaWHERE 'You' can be heardPublic Hearing on the Proposed Waterfront PlanSaturday, January 21st, 9:30am @ City Hall, 301 King StreetWe and our crew will be at there.Thank you always for your kind and gracious support.If you don't agree, that is fine, we still love you ;) but know the facts.Read the Urban Legends : Be in the know.Please PASS THIS ON!I am doing what the supporters of Waterfront for All have suggested and passing this message on. I have eaten at Virtue Feed and Grain twice, and both times I have been there I have seen Murray Bonitt, one of the owners and a supporter of Waterfront for All, and made sure to go over and say hello, and talk about what a great job they did with the building. I used to work at Olsson’s Books and Records in the same building when I was 17 and they put now there is a very nice restaurant in the building. I also saw Jody Manor at Virtue, and said hello, as I do two or three times a week when I see him at his restaurant, Bittersweet. I also know Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong, who I first met when my former wife was a restaurant reviewer for the Alexandria Times. I don't think she ever gave one of their restaurants a bad review. I have seen them eating at Taverna Cretoukou, the restaurant in the building my family has owned since the early 70's and l really appreciate that they support and enjoy other local restaurants. But I have to say that I am disappointed that these people would support the nasty rhetoric in the invitation to this party. Of course Waterfront for All has a right to have a party, and get out their message, but their demeaning characterization of people on the other side of the issue is beyond the pale.This is kind of characterization and the fact tat they are holding their final rally at the restaurant at the heart of questions of conflict of interest says a lot about Waterfront for All. The Urban Legends published on their website also show that they do not always stick to the facts. Here are my replies to each of them:1. CAAWP is not for keeping the waterfront the way it is, or why would we have written a 200 page Alternative Plan. Myth busted: CAAWP is for keeping the waterfront as it is.2. CAAWP does not think that Old Town will be National Harbor, not in scale or size, but in 2007 the Mayor appointed an Economic Sustainability Workgroup headed by Nigel Morris in order to suggest how we would compete with National Harbor. The Waterfront development was one of the suggestions, and so we now have a plan that includes hotels, like National Harbor. Myth Busted: The City Waterfront Plan is like National Harbor.3. Yes, Resolution with the Old Dominion Boat Club is important, but CAAWP does not support doing it by Eminent Domain and we question the wisdom of taking the ODBC to the Virginia Supreme Court in exchange for $21,000 a year in revenue for Wales Alley. John Fitzgerald Square, which is supposed to go where the ODBC parking lot is, is not possible without a resolution with the Boat Club and is supposed to be a centerpiece of the city plan. Myth: The City’s Waterfront Plan does not depend on Resolution of the Old Dominion Boat Club because it is not about the amenities, but about developing the waterfront.4. CAAWP has discovered. according to FOIA documents, many private meetings with Robinson Terminal, Attorney Duncan Blair, and representative of the Cummings property in 2009 before the plan was drafted. There were certainly other meetings regarding the lawsuit filed in 2008 by Robinson Terminal asking for the 1992 zoning to be ignored and have all the rights granted them in 1983. Myth busted: Maybe it was not the back room, but these were not public meetings, and they influenced the plan.5. CAAWP believes “by- right” (that developers would build without any approvals) development is very unlikely as only a 1 FAR (floor area ratio) is allowed for office or residential, and it would only be increased to a 1.25 FAR if retail is added. This is far below what the property ownersare asking for or the maximum they could get under the current SUP process. In an SUP Process concessions like paying for the 6.5 million in flood mitigation could be required. Myth busted: Neither this plan or by-right zoning will give us what we want. The only thing that will give us what we want is a new plan that is built around a shared vision.6. CAWP does not believe that the City Waterfront Plan will take away what is currently public space,but it does remove a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire more parkland along the Alexandria Waterfront which is a National Historic Landmark District and enjoyed by citizens across the city. Parkland increases the value of private properties around it, thus it would add significantly to the tax base without requiring development. The suggestion that there will be more control by developers is truly a myth when what they are actually getting is maximum flexibility. The Developers are also not required to make any donations "for flood mitigation, open space, parks, streetscape enhancements, public art and the like," as Waterfront for All suggests. Yes, the development will supposedly pay for these things, but it is not in developer contributions but that every tax dollar generated from these developments for 25 years (they have shortened it from 30) will go to Waterfront improvements which will of course also help the developers. There are no developer contributions,. Myth busted: The Developers are not paying for this plan, tax payers are with any new tax revenue generated for 25 years.7. CAAWP believes the City Waterfront Plan will cause more traffic and congestion. Putting 3 hotels on the waterfront will increase traffic and congestion, period. There will also be office and condo development as well. The City plan originally said it will cause no traffic or congestion just like they said about BRAC. That is not just misleading, but a lie. If you want Hotels, do the study on the traffic on Union Street that the Waterfront Work Group has recommended before the plan is passed. There will actually be almost 1000 new cars parking along the waterfront. The Plan says there are 700 currently available spaces and they are contemplating that at least 300 more would need to be built. There has been no comparison between the parking needed for hotels and museums and art centers. Since the Torpedo Factory has no dedicated parking I would suggest another art center would also need no parking. Myth busted: There will be more Traffic and Congestion.The invitation to a party, calling us "cranky" people is characteristic of this organization, as are their portrayal of our views. There spokesperson Lynn Hampton on WAMU said that the plan covers 340 acres. It most certainly does not or we could have hotels anywhere in that zone and the 25 acre Gen On coal fired power plant would be in the plan. The Zoning changes are for three property owners only, and affect 8.5 acres in an 8 block area. In fact, the city plan will add only about 1.5 acres of park to what is already in the settlement agreement. If the CAAWP Plan is passed 10 acres of parkland would be added. If the City Waterfront Plan is passed we will have hotels along the waterfront in a few years, and be paying for them for the next 25 years. Hotels will not make Alexandria a historic and special place. An open waterfront accessible to the public with activities for all will be a better waterfront. I hope that Waterfront for All can do two things, get the facts right, and stop belittling people who don't support the City's Waterfront Plan. We both have a right to our opinions.Boyd WalkerCo-founder and Co-Chair of Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan
Boyd Walker (274) | User | January 16, 2012 - 12:04 AM
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