Alexandria City Council votes to implement waterfront plan

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Photo - Zoning changes approved Saturday allow for up to two boutique hotels in the waterfront zone, as well as museums, schools and cultural institutions.
Zoning changes approved Saturday allow for up to two boutique hotels in the waterfront zone, as well as museums, schools and cultural institutions.
Local,Virginia,Naomi Jagoda,Alexandria

The Alexandria City Council voted Saturday to approve zoning changes that officials say will allow the city to move forward with its waterfront redevelopment plan.

The zoning-code amendment, which passed by a supermajority, 6-1 vote, had been put forward in an effort to resolve litigation that has stalled the city's ability to implement the waterfront plan.

The zoning changes include allowing up to two boutique hotels in the waterfront zone, as well as museums, schools and cultural institutions.

The city council passed these same changes by a 5-2 vote in January 2012, when it also approved the waterfront development plan. But opponents of the plan were immediately upset because they had filed a petition that sought to require six votes for the changes to pass. This dispute led to the litigation that prevented the zoning changes from being officially adopted.

During Saturday's public hearing, many people spoke out against the redevelopment plan and the zoning changes, arguing that the plan would hurt the city's character and lead to flooding and increased congestion.

Bert Ely, an opponent of the waterfront plan who is involved with one of the pending lawsuits, said that "the dream of having boutique hotels along the waterfront is a pipe dream," because the hotels would be too far from public transportation for business travelers to want to use them during the week.

After the council voted in favor of the changes, Ely said that questions will be raised about the vote's legality.

But others spoke out in favor of the waterfront redevelopment.

Alexandria resident James Pelkofski said the city needs to make its waterfront more attractive in order to compete with places such as Georgetown's waterfront and National Harbor.

"Let's embrace progress. Let's move forward," he said. "Let's build a waterfront we can all be proud of and enjoy."

The lone no vote on the council came from Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg, who sought for a compromise that would amend the waterfront plan so that only one hotel would be allowed.

njagoda@washingtonexaminer.com

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