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Virginia's Supreme Court Considers Alexandria's Wales Alley Fight

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Virtue Feed & Grain, which opened last year in Old Town Alexandria, borders Wales Alley, but there's an ongoing fight over whether they can place tables and chairs for service in that alley.
Thomas Cizauskas (http://www.flickr.com/photos/cizauskas/5821047209/)
Virtue Feed & Grain, which opened last year in Old Town Alexandria, borders Wales Alley, but there's an ongoing fight over whether they can place tables and chairs for service in that alley.

The city of Alexandria and the Old Dominion Boat Club are engaged in a fierce legal battle for control of an alley leading to the waterfront — one that's gone all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court.

Inside the marble-walled chamber of the Virginia Supreme Court, justices are now considering the case. At issue is the use of Wales Alley, a public street named for Andrew Wales who once sold beer there. Boat Club members say they have an easement right to use the alley dating back to a 1789 deed allowing for free use and passage. Lawyers for the city and the restaurant say the government maintains the street and can do what it wants, which includes allowing waterfront restaurant to set up tables and chairs there.

"I think there's good counsel involved all the way around," says Deputy City Attorney Chris Spera. "I think that the court has a full exposition of the issues laid out before it, and we'll see what the court does."

City Council members agreed to lease the alley for use as part of the restaurant Virtue Feed & Grain back in 2010. The Old Dominion Boat Club, which uses the alley to move boats, brought a lawsuit, arguing that the city is violating the right of its members. In April 2011, the Alexandria Circuit Court sided with the boat club and the city appealed the decision. 

The Boat Club has long been at odds with the city, especially over a waterfront parking lot that the city wants to transform into a public park. Last summer, the city threatened to take some of the boat club's land using the power of eminent domain. Now boat club lawyers are arguing in court that what the city has done in Wales Alley is eminent domain by other means.

In this case, the Virtue Restaurant people did not assert a private claim to the alley. Rather, they came to the city acknowledging that it was a public alley and got a license from the city.

Attorneys for the boat club declined to comment.

The court is expected to rule in six to eight weeks

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