Alexandria’s waterfront plan is back in court this week, and it's become the key point of distinction in the city's mayoral race.
Opponents of the plan, which would allow more real estate development on several parcels along the Potomac River, have two separate legal challenges — one in the Circuit Court and another in the Virginia Supreme Court. In a third case, supporters of waterfront redevelopment are challenging in Circuit Court a February ruling against the plan by the Board of Zoning Appeals.
Lawyers for the city and opponents are back in court this week, scheduling a trial in one of the cases. That legal limbo is also playing out on the campaign trail. Independent candidate for mayor Andrew Macdonald, one of the chief opponents of the plan, says the court challenges are an indication that the waterfront project is fraught with problems.
"The plan hasn't received enough of the approval of the community, so it's not progress in that sense, and I don't think it was well thought out," he says.
Three-term Democratic Mayor Bill Euille disagrees. The legal challenges aren't surprising, he says, considering the scale of the plan.
"Just because a legal hiccup or process is underway doesn't mean that things can't continue to move forward," he says.
That includes considering a proposal from a developer interested in building a hotel on the waterfront, which has become a point of contention in this election cycle. Euille’s opponent, independent candidate Andrew Macdonald, has been one of the chief opponents of the plan.
Macdonald says his and Euille's differences on the waterfront are indicative of their differing views in general.
"I think the mayor and I disagree strongly on what is meant by progress in Alexandria from a big picture point of view, whether it be on the West End or Potomac Yards or on the waterfront," Macdonald says.
Lawyers on both sides expect the cases to come to some kind of resolution this fall, just in time for Election Day. So far, no one-on-one debates have been scheduled between the two candidates.