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City Council Waterfront Work Session Aims to Address Citizen Concerns

City staff vetted questions on parking, green space and more

Saturday morning's City Council work session on the waterfront largely centered on how to address concerns about parking, the possible creation of hotels and what could be legally built in the area under current zoning regulations. 

The city argues that hotel rooms “contribute – in net tax revenue – about six times what housing does, and these are revenues that would be available to pay for the new parks and other amenities in the Plan,” according to city documents.

The Planning and Zoning Department also has agreed that any future hotel on the waterfront should be limited to 150 rooms with meeting rooms to hold no more than 50 people. Old Town Alexandria’s Lorien Hotel has 107 rooms, for comparison.

That suggestion did not bode well with Councilwoman Alicia Hughes, who said “from a business perspective, if someone were told they were going to pay $15 (million) to $20 million for a hotel and only get to have 150 rooms,” they would be told not to walk but run away from that business deal.

While the intent of pushing for smaller hotels and meeting space was to appease citizen concerns over busy activity and parking congestion a hotel can bring, Vice Mayor Kerry Donley also commented that the meeting capacity “can’t even handle a small wedding reception.”

Councilman Paul Smedberg expressed concern over parking issues, saying the current parking study showing there is actually available parking space in Old Town's waterfront is “very limited’ when the entire waterfront plan will affect space from Daingerfield Island to Jones Point. He added, “I’m not sure how many more studies we’ve got to do to drag this out.”

A waterfront plan parking study shows that most garages in Old Town do not operated at capacity. For example, the garage at N. Union St. was only at 33 percent capacity during a Friday evening.

The city's plan would cost just over $50 million and is predicted to pay for itself by 2025. However, there is a more adventurous plan that would cost up to $200 million and there are concerns that the city would have to hike its tax rate to shoulder that kind of burden.

"You’d have to float bonds," said Vice Mayor Kerry Donley, speaking of the more expensive plan, adding that it could mean an additional 7 cents "on our tax rate in order to finance this."

"No one - if dollars weren’t at all a factor - wouldn’t say this wouldn’t be a preference," said Councilman Rob Krupicka. "This is a compelling idea. Don’t shortchange it. It’s a big visionary idea, and it’s also incredibly expensive to execute."

City Council will consider whether to hold another public hearing on the issue at its June 14 meeting.

JohnFitzgerald June 13, 2011 at 08:45 PM
the city's waterfront study in which they found that the N. Union St. garage was at 33% capacity during an event is clearly flawed and the citizens can debunk that myth. The event in question must have taken place on the other side of town. I walked past the garage they are referring to Saturday night to find a "lot full" sign out front and drivers whipping around the North Union Street neighborhoods looking for non-existing parking. Meanwhile, at Union and King, there was near gridlock. This is all documented ONLINE and in VIDEO on YouTube. The weak foundations of this flawed plan are about to be torn down by and educated and irate citizenry. THe videos in question can be found at the following links (please click on all): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xA4UOTsCGuY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBY5jKcHdWI http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmC2k3zuHYc The citizen revolt is in full swing......
Katy Cannady June 13, 2011 at 10:17 PM
The plan championed by the planning and zoning staff has 450 new hotel rooms on the waterfront at three locations. The planning staff assumes that because every hotel pays a small tax to the city for each night one of its rooms is occupied, that new hotels will be sure money makers for the city. This assumption takes as a given that all the patrons for the 450 new rooms would not visit Alexandria and spend money here without these new hotels. Its more logical to assume that many of these visitors might come anyway and stay elsewhere in the city. The city collects the same tax where ever in the city a visitor stays. If our aim is more tourists we need to give more thought to new attractions, namely more park land along the river, a museum, and more interpretation of our long history.
Leigh Talbot June 14, 2011 at 02:21 PM
The community is overwhelmingly opposed to the City's preferred high density plan. Here's a vision of what Old Town would look like under that plan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QabPnaeADW0 Nine tour buses caused chaos, fumes, and trapped vehicles Monday night on N. Union St. This would be our future. We need a better alternative, and frankly, no one believes the "Arts and Parks" option would cost $220 million. The Planning Department did not even consider tourism-related revenues in the alternative plan. The Council should NOT to approve the master plan and decide on re-zoning later. That would be dangerous. The Council must be reasonable and sensible and do the following: 1. Hold a public hearing on June 28th 2. Delay any waterfront decision until this fall to give the community (and Planning Department) more time to evaluate alternatives. 3. Work with the community to craft a more acceptable alternative. The Council must heed the wishes of their constituents who are firmly opposed to the high density plan.
Mom June 14, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Ditto the above. Help me understand the logic here: The city needs to build at least three new resort hotels and up to 14 new restaurants to -- what? -- pay for the new hotels we don't want in the first place and the "amenities" they say they will include in the total plan -- waterfront-enjoyment amenities that we already have! Ten-foot sidewalks around these hotels to replace the parks we already access directly for walks, picnics or just to enjoy a beautiful sunrise? Give me a break1

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