A model of the Alexandria waterfront shows changes as citizens wait to speak at a public hearing.
Members of the Alexandria City Council have approved a plan that will drastically reshape the city's waterfront by overturning a longstanding ban on hotels and increasing the amount of development allowed there despite fierce opposition.
It's been 11 months since the Alexandria planning director released the small-area plan for the city's waterfront, launching a contentious debate. Supporters have accused opponents of obstructionism and bullying, while opponents have charged supporters with greed and conflicts of interest. That debate culminated Saturday night, when Mayor Bill Euille presided over the final vote.
Council members approved the measure by a vote of 5-2. It was a party-line vote, with all five Democrats supporting the plan and both Republicans voting against it.
The proposal has divided the city over the course of the last year, prompting harsh rhetoric and angry insults back and forth. Ultimately, those in favor of increasing density along the waterfront and allowing hotels won out. Lynn Hampton was one of the leading citizen advocates in favor of the plan.
"It really is the right type of development," Hampton says. "It's at the edges of Old Town and really will provide a vibrancy for the waterfront and the city."
But opponents of the plan argue that it is flawed. They collected more than 200 signatures from property owners in Old Town asking that a super-majority of six council members be required to pass the plan. Planning director Faroll Hamer rejected the protest petition, but opponents of the plan say they intend to appeal that ruling to the Board of Zoning Appeals and possibly the Circuit Court.
Rosemont resident Katy Cannady says opponents will continue to press on. "This fight is not over just because our city attorney says our petition is no good. That's not necessarily so," she says.
If opponents are successful in persuading the Board of Zoning Appeals or the Alexandria Circuit Court of their case, it could have drastic consequences. The 5-2 vote fell one vote shy of a supermajority, which means that a decision in favor of the opponents' petition could overturn the decision.