City Alters Process for Waterfront Hotel in Response to Concerns
Board of Architectural Review expected to hold informal work session on Carr Hospitality proposal for waterfront hotel in lieu of formal vote.
Alexandria’s Planning and Zoning director told members of Old Town’s architectural review board that they will discuss a waterfront hotel proposal as an informal work session rather than a formal application in response to critics of the plan.
Friends of the Alexandria Waterfront, a group opposing zoning changes along the waterfront permitting uses such as hotels, sent a letter July 9 to the Board of Architectural Review for the Old and Historic Alexandria District asking it to defer reviewing a proposed hotel at 220 S. Union St. because of legal issues, zoning requirements and other reasons.
The group said in the letter that considering a “certificate of appropriateness” for Carr Hospitality’s proposal “is both premature and inappropriate.”
The city struck a compromise on Tuesday, saying it took seriously the concerns about process expressed by FAW and its co-chairman, Bert Ely.
“While the process was established to provide clarity and transparency, the fact that the process could be clearer works against the ultimate goal shared by all of us,” wrote Planning and Zoning Director Faroll Hamer in a July 17 letter to BAR. “We think it is critically important that we focus on the goal of the development proposal rather than become mired in a controversy about the process.”
Hamer added that city staff is notifying Carr Hospitality that the matter will not proceed as a formal application, but rather an informal work session with public testimony and no BAR vote on July 25 at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting.
She said it’s important for the public and the BAR to be able to express and make public their thoughts on the project before it becomes more detailed.
Hamer also explained in the letter that the city has significant precedent in processing the possible hotel development for concept review, comparing it to a similar path for projects including Village on the Strand, Fords Landing and the James Bland and Jefferson Houston developments.
“Concept review does not in itself result in any approval and does not grant any authority to the applicant to move forward with any development,” according to Hamer.
Citizens who live close to the project site will be able to file a protest petition objecting to the rezoning - something that FAW Co-Chairman Mark Mueller says the city can "count on" happening.
The Union Street warehouse formerly housed a branch of The Art League school.
City staff is expected to summarize board and public comment for the Planning Commission and Council when the project is anticipated to proceed for rezoning in the fall.