Mayor seeks new chapter in Alexandria waterfront battle

Alexandria Manager Rashad Young (left) and Mayor Bill Euille discuss a renewed effort to kick start a $40 to $50 million development plan along the waterfront Friday. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

Kathy Stewart, wtop.com

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – With a newly seated City Council, Alexandria’s mayor sees a new chapter, and an opportunity, in the battle over Alexandria’s controversial waterfront plan.

Even though it was approved by City Council more than a year ago by a 5-2 vote, lawsuits have sidelined the $40 to $50 million development. And now Mayor Bill Euille hopes to obtain a super majority vote to rebuff the lawsuits.

At city hall late Friday morning, Euille held a news conference to discuss how he, his staff and city council are trying to work around the lawsuits and begin construction.

The waterfront plan includes $40 to $50 million worth of development and two hotels on 8.6 acres of the city’s historic waterfront. The blueprint also preserves residential parking, access to the waterfront and includes some flood mitigation in an area known for high water during storms.

The November election changed the makeup of Alexandria City Council. The two members who had voted against the waterfront plan were not re-elected. And the mayor believes the change in the council’s make up provides an opportunity to overcome the lawsuits.

The multiple lawsuits center around zoning. The city’s attorney and the city’s manger say that a text amendment, which includes zoning changes needed to carry out the plan, will be voted on by the planning commission and by the new city council next month. They say there will also be a public hearing on the issue.

But the goal is to get a super majority council vote on the amendment, which would negate the basis for the lawsuits, city officials say.

“What they’re trying to do today is simply to circumvent the public process once again,” says Alexandria resident Andrew McDonnell, with Friends of the Alexandria Waterfront.

McDonnell has been fighting the waterfront plan from the start arguing the plan isn’t right for the city or its economic future.

“They (local government) didn’t really work to create a waterfront plan that was unique to Alexandria,” McDonnell says.

McDonnell says the city could have avoided the lawsuits if the mayor had worked with the community – a notion the mayor rejects. Euille says he worked with the community and held hundreds of meetings.

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