Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Should I Care?

The answer is Yes.  And I do.

For those who do not live or work in the City of Alexandria, the discussions about the Waterfront Plan probably do not resonate very loudly.  But it has evoked passions here that are reminiscent of those of a small town (not a bad thing).

This past Saturday, an 11 hour hearing and council session took place.  This hearing incorporated over 100 speakers - some in support of the plan and others in support of an alternate plan.  The two groups, Waterfront4All and Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan, spent significant time and effort to express their viewpoints, including rallies, press conferences, numerous letters to the editor, signs, and even Facebook pages devoted to their viewpoints.

My biggest concern from the moment I started to study the plan was just how much confusion was out there.  I stood at a reception in June with a local commercial real estate broker (from a family that goes back generations in Alexandria) and the then-head of the Chamber of Commerce.  It was as if the two of them were talking about two completely different plans.  I wondered, if two people who I would expect to understand and know as much as possible about the plan were interpreting it completely differently, what did it mean for people who hadn't studied it at all?

The Alexandria Waterfront has a colorful, interesting history.  Just down the street from Zoe (at the Torpedo Factory) is the Alexandria Archaeology Museum.   I spent some time on their site throughout the process to learn more about all of the changes the waterfront has seen since the City's founding.  This was one of my favorite pages.

As I studied all of the viewpoints and history, the one thing that kept coming up for me was just how much potential the waterfront has that isn't being utilized today.  Alexandria's waterfront, when compared to others I've had the opportunity to visit, just doesn't measure up.  I thought about how special it was when we had tall ships docked here this summer and how much it matched up with the heritage of the town.

My personal temperament is such that I feel you can talk an issue to death (yes, I know that some of you are laughing).  Make a decision and move forward with it.  And, no offense to the P&Z folks, but with as many rules and regulations and gyrations that you put both residents and businesses through, it will take quite some time for anything to happen anyway!

I could not attend the hearing on Saturday so I turned to Twitter to keep up with the discussions and outcome  Reporters from several local media outlets tweeted the activities of the hearing throughout the day.  The end result was a 5 - 2 vote for the Waterfront Plan with a zoning modification to allow the potential for 2 hotels rather than 3.  The CAAWP group had filed a petition to push for a super-majority vote (which would have been 6 - 1) but the status of the petition is still being discussed and might wind up in court.

What will happen now?  I can't wait to find out!

Next up:  Inventory

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