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Alexandria's Approved Waterfront Plan Attracts Praise And Criticism

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A model of the waterfront plan is displayed at Alexandria City Hall.
Michael Pope
A model of the waterfront plan is displayed at Alexandria City Hall.

When the Alexandria City Council gaveled into session Saturday morning and approved the controversial zoning change that will almost triple the density at three waterfront sites, the fate of the plan was already sealed.

After the election, when two Republican opponents of the plan were unseated, the zoning change had a clear supermajority support. But it also had a lot of opposition, including longtime state senator and former Mayor Patsy Ticer.

"I think the whole city, for a long time, has been too concerned about the fact that we don't have enough money, and everything seems to rotate around that," says Ticer.

Supporters, such as Gina Baum, say hotel money will bring amenities.

"Having small boutique hotels will certainly improve the landscape of the waterfront for everyone," says Baum. "We'll have improved parks. We'll have improved walkways."

Opponents such as Bert Ely say the city has disregarded the objections of people who live in Old Town, and have filed a number of legal challenges.

"They're, you know, just basically bullying ahead, and they need to learn how to play by the rules, and hopefully that will be the instruction that comes down from the Supreme Court," says Ely.

That decision won't be available for a few weeks. For now, though, the waterfront has a new zoning designation that allows for increased density and two hotels.

"I do not believe that it's 'Apocalypse Now.' There's enough study, there's enough people working on this together with the community that will not allow willy-nilly irresponsible development to happen," says Alexandria Economic Development Partnership president Val Hawkis.

Opponents are holding out hope that an upcoming ruling this spring from the Virginia Supreme Court will undo the waterfront plan.

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