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Opponents urge delay in Alexandria waterfront plan

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Local,Virginia,Liz Essley

Alexandria residents lined up Saturday to both praise and oppose the city's multi-million dollar plan to redevelop its waterfront.

With more than 150 residents scheduled to speak, the day-long meeting stretched from 9:30 a.m. into the evening.

Opponents charged that the city's plan lacks enough public green space, arts and museums, opting instead for eyesore hotels. But supporters argue that the hotels will generate tax revenues necessary to upgrade the waterfront.

Opponents begged the council to delay Saturday's decision, saying the council still had not done the necessary traffic and flooding studies.

"For all the meetings you've had this is a half-baked plan. It needs to go back for more work," said Alexandria resident Dino Drudi.

Longtime Alexandria resident and former state senator Patsy Ticer agreed.

"I would say this is not ready for primetime," she said -- a rallying cry that was taken up by opponents throughout the day.

A last-minute petition that would have required a supermajority of the council to pass the plan was rejected by the city's planning director early in the day. More than 200 signatures were on the petition, but city attorney James Banks argued that the petition couldn't legally block the vote.

"It's not even a close call," he said.

Supporters were to eager to push the council to a vote Saturday lest The Washington Post Company, which owns two of the major properties up for development on the waterfront, move ahead with a lawsuit that would allow it to redevelop its properties within existing zoning rules.

"Without this plan, the landowners will be able to do basically whatever they want with their property. If this plan does not pass, we'll be lucky to get a National Harbor. Instead we'll get a Tysons Corner on the waterfront," resident Nikki Enfield said.

The meeting pushed on into the evening and past press time, though observers from both sides expected the council to approve the plan on a split vote.

The waterfront plan has been at the center of a heated city-wide debate for years. The council delayed a vote on the plan last summer, instead appointing a citizen-led workgroup to study objections to the plan. The workgroup endorsed parts of the city's plan, but remained split on some of the most controversial issues, such as how high and large the buildings on new development sites could be.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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