City leaders in Alexandria are finally ready to move forward with a zoning change to the waterfront. The controversial plan is two years in the making.
The Alexandria Planning Commission will vote on the waterfront plan tonight, which would almost triple density compared to what is there now. It's a change that has angered many residents in Old Town, but it's a long overdue step, according to Mayor Bill Euille.
"We've had meetings after meetings," Euille says. "We've had a task force and work groups and the input in terms of making sure that it has open space and that it addresses traffic mitigation and that it addresses flood mitigation."
For Euille, passing the waterfront plan would be a high water mark of his time in office.
"As a lifelong resident of the city, I would not vote for or support a plan that would harm the community, plain and simple," Euille says.
Leading the opposition is former Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald, also a lifelong resident of Alexandria. He launched an unsuccessful campaign against the mayor last year on a platform that was largely based on his opposition to the waterfront plan. Euille won the election, and now it seems likely that he'll get the long-awaiting zoning change.
Macdonald acknowledges that the zoning change now seems more likely than ever.
"I think people are exhausted by this whole thing and don 't quite know what to do," Macdonald says. "I mean, I certainly feel that way."
Macdonald says he will be gathering people for some kind of protest in advance of the final City Council public hearing next Saturday, March 16. He acknowledges that the odds are stacked against the opponents, but he adds that the stakes are high because he says the changes will undercut a sense of community.
"It's incredibly discouraging and sad, I think, for me personally," Macdonald says. "If the waterfront is rezoned, it will basically be the end of Old Town."
One developer has already introduced a plans for a new hotel on the waterfront, and other developers are waiting in the wings for when the Washington Post sells its two waterfront warehouses.