ALEXANDRIA — It is a classic battle between private property rights and the public good.
The city of Alexandria may use eminent domain to get control of one-half acre of waterfront land that currently serves as a parking lot for the Old Dominion Boat Club.
The land, dubbed the “missing link” by city leaders, is the only spot along a mile of the city’s waterfront not open to public access as the city moves ahead with construction of its long-planned public waterfront park.
“What we want is an adequate, appropriate and beautiful front door to the millions of dollars of both public and private investment that is coming to the waterfront,” says City Manager Rashad Young.
The city has been negotiating with the boat club for more than a decade.
Mayor William Euille says he has been reluctant in the past to use eminent domain, but the lack of progress has changed his mind.
He says getting the parking lot will provide the last link for the waterfront park.
“You can walk that almost one-mile route from one end to the other almost in a straight line fashion,” he says.
The boat club’s location on the Strand, at the end of King Street, hasn’t changed for more than 100 years. It is in the heart of Old Town Alexandria in an area frequented by tourists.
The city wants only the parking lot and not the boat club building. The parking lot is surrounded by a chain link fence with no trespassing signs in several locations.
It is an area that is prone to flooding and the city’s plans for a park along the mile of waterfront includes a flood control project.
Negotiations have dragged on more than a decade, but the city says the boat club keeps changing what it wants for the parking lot.
Boat club members say the issue is not money.
“There’s not a price to it, and that is the way the boat club members feel,” says one member, Frank Fannon. “Property is very important and property rights is one of the great things this county has,” he says.
Members have also expressed concern about access to the waterfront for their boats if the park is built where the current parking lot is.
The Alexandria City Council will hold a public hearing on Nov. 19 before deciding whether to continue negotiations with the boat club or try and take the property through eminent domain.