Landowner could lose rights to build on property to another developer

Local,Taryn Luntz

An Alexandria landowner who planned to build a high-end development on his 10-acre plot is now watching as a local agency considers handing his building rights to another site’s developer.

Charles Hooff has been locked in a years-long battle with the Alexandria Sanitation Authority, an independent body that for the past year has been trying to seize his property under eminent domain to expand the city’s wastewater plant.

But recently, Hooff learned that if the authority wins the site, the city would consider transferring the unused density from it to developer JM Zell Partners to build what could be Alexandria’s tallest building at a nearby location.

“It is really outrageous when you pick up the paper in the morning and find out that you’re the turkey on the table at Thanksgiving and being carved up,” Hooff said about reading about it in the Washington Business Journal. “I just am incensed by it.”

Faroll Hamer, Alexandria’s director of planning and zoning, said if the authority buys the land from Hooff at fair market value, it will own the density rights that come with the land and can sell them to JM Zell Partners.

JM Zell President Jeff Zell said that with the extra-density rights and approval from the City Council, his company could build a 33-story tower at the edge of the Carlyle district that would serve as a gateway to the Eisenhower Valley.

“The Hooff camp seems to think that the density would be given away, which is certainly not the case,” Hamer said. “It would be purchased at fair market value.”

The land’s value is what is in question in the eminent domain proceedings.

Sanitation Authority General Manager Karen Pallansch said the authority’s appraisers last year put the value of Hooff’s land at $20 million.

The authority must buy the land to complete an expansion required to meet new environmental standards that were enacted to protect the Chesapeake Bay and that are scheduled to go into effect in 2011, officials said.

Hooff said he had a $42 million offer for the land from developer Penzance Cos. in 2006 that fell through when the authority made a play for the land.

Penzance planned to build a high-end residential and office complex there — a vision in line with what Hooff had for the site, he said.

The eminent domain case is scheduled for a court hearing this month.

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