Alexandria mayoral race focusing on waterfront plan

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Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

The future of Alexandria's waterfront plan has taken center stage in the city's fiery race for mayor between its three-term incumbent and his challenger.

The plan, which calls for the hotels, restaurants and other buildings to be built along the city's waterfront, has been surrounded by legal tape and lawsuits since the city council passed it in January.

Democratic incumbent Bill Euille says he was both open and transparent with residents while drafting the plan to generate more revenue for the city, but his opponent, Andrew Macdonald, claims the city silenced the plan's opponents and gave too much power to developers.

Macdonald, an independent who launched his campaign to oppose the city's plan, said Euille was making Alexandria less livable and "turning our historic town into another Ballston" by pushing the agenda of developers rather than residents.

"During this whole process, the city has sided with the developers," Macdonald said. "And there are a lot of people who share my concerns. If there weren't, I wouldn't be running."

Euille called Macdonald's claim "an overexaggeration," noting that the city had "hundreds" of meetings with residents while drafting the most recent version of the plan.

"If there's 1,000 voices, you listen to the majority," Euille said. "It's not what I want; it's what the majority wants. That's the democratic process ... I know we've listened. This plan is a good plan."

The two candidates also have different responses to the city's handling of the more than 6,000 employees that the Department of Defense brought to work at the Mark Center.

Euille said the city reached out to the complex's owners to voice the concerns of residents but noted the city "doesn't get involved with telling people what to do" with their land. Macdonald claims Euille could've done more to stop the agency from redeveloping in the area.

Both candidates agree, meanwhile, that the city faces challenges to sustain affordable housing. However, each has vowed to explore different options to maintain and add housing options that attract people of all income levels.

Euille, the city's first black mayor, has served Alexandria as either a councilman or as the mayor for 18 years. Macdonald, who previously served as the city's vice mayor, is Euille's first challenger for the position since he took office in 2003.

To date, Macdonald has raised $40,661 since announcing his candidacy in March, while Euille has received $43,480, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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