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Alexandria forges ahead with Waterfront Plan despite legal battles

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Photo - An Alexandria court has dismissed a case challenging the city's waterfront development plan. (Examiner file photo)
An Alexandria court has dismissed a case challenging the city's waterfront development plan. (Examiner file photo)
Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

Legal tape and lawsuits have surrounded the City of Alexandria's crown jewel -- its Waterfront Plan -- for much of the last two years, but city officials say they plan to "continue to work ahead."

Their renewed sense of confidence comes after a circuit court judge dismissed a case on Friday that claimed the plan constituted illegal spot zoning. Had the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, Michael Peck and Elizabeth Baldwin, the city "basically would've had to throw the whole plan out and start over," said Deputy City Attorney Chris Spera.

Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille called the ruling "a major victory for the city," and said he and others would continue to seek and promote redevelopment opportunities for the area.

When a plan to drastically revamp the city's waterfront was first envisioned more than 40 years ago, Euille said city leaders wanted changes to include providing access to the area from multiple directions, as well as an increase in open space, restaurants and hotels.

Since that time, however, at least four separate lawsuits, including the one dismissed on Friday, have been filed in opposition to the Waterfront Plan.

The first came just days after the city council approved the Small Area Plan for the waterfront on Jan. 21, when a resident alleged Alexandria did not provide adequate public notice for a meeting about waterfront development. The case was dismissed in February.

A second suit argued that the city's planning director, Faroll Hamer, should have accepted a protest filed by residents before a public hearing. That case was dismissed in March.

A third lawsuit, in which the city appealed the Board of Zoning Appeals' decision to reconsider a previously rejected protest petition by residents, remains in court with a trial date in the spring of 2013.

If the court rules in favor of the residents, the city council would either have to ask the state Supreme Court to hear their appeal or vote again on the plan because the petition would require a supermajority, or six votes, to pass it. When the plan passed in January, the council voted 5-2.

Andrew Macdonald, a leader of Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan, said all of the lawsuits filed against the plan are "still in play," however, because plaintiffs have the option to request that the state Supreme Court hear their case.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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