I am a member of the Waterfront Commission, a citizens group which is tasked with advising Council and staff on the implementation of the City’s Small Area Waterfront Plan. I was also a member of the Waterfront4All citizens group that supported the City’s Waterfront Plan. I disclose these facts because, upon their stance against the Waterfront Plan alone, is enough for me to not vote for Mr. Wood and Mr. van Fleet. But it goes deeper than that.
During 2011 the City’s Waterfront Plan was generating quite a bit of discussion in Alexandria. Opponents of the plan, and those in favor of it were in high gear. Since then the Plan has evolved thru many iterations, meetings, votes, lawsuits, and is currently in the process of actually being implemented. However, the opponents of the Plan are still very active.
In relation to Mr. Wood and Mr. van Fleet’s position on the Waterfront Plan, two issues stand out in regards to their viewpoints. Both are on record as critical of the City’s debt load. They claim that the City has been irresponsible in generating too much debt. In their opposition to the Waterfront Plan, both Mr. Wood and Mr. van Fleet supported CAAWP (Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan) which was the oppositions alternative plan presented in November 2011. Their plan called for the City to purchase the properties owned by the Washington Post/Cummings Turner which was designated for sale and development. The CAAWP plan called for the City to purchase those properties and to make them into parks. Their estimate was a cost to taxpayers of about $100 million. The City’s response to their plan was more like $200 million. Either way, the City’s debt would have increased by a significant amount to satisfy their wishes. Given the cost, the availability of extensive parks in the area, and who the principal beneficiaries of this expenditure would be, this addition to the City’s debt was not in the interests of Alexandria’s citizens/taxpayers.
A second issue is also related to the Waterfront Plan. While I support the ability and rights of neighborhoods to react and protest any development that specifically affects them, there is a line where constructive criticism morphs into obstructionism. This is the case where the Friends of the Alexandria Waterfront appealed the decision of the BAR to demolish 226 Strand. Reviewing the analysis of the building by the City’s architect and staff showed “that, while historic, the building has severe structural issues, lacks historical significance, and detracts from the waterfront’s aesthetics.” The sum of the analysis clearly showed that there was little to no reason to save the building, in whole or in part. An appeal petition presented by Friends of the Alexandria Waterfront included signatures of approximately 80 residents. It included the signatures of Mr. Wood and Mr. Van Fleet.
It is clear that the Friends of the Alexandria Waterfront plan to “throw a monkey wrench” into the implementation of the Waterfront Plan wherever they can. This is not constructive criticism, but obstructionism. It costs taxpayers time and money as well as causing City staff to spend significant time in addressing these wasteful actions. These actions by Mr. Wood and Mr. van Fleet call into question how they would operate on Council.
In sum, it appears to me that both Mr. Wood and Mr. van Fleet are, essentially Old Town centric. It is also important to note that not all Old Town residents are opposed to the Waterfront Plan, and should not be brushed with the efforts of these obstructionists. Mr. Wood and Mr. van Fleet do not appear to be very concerned about the City as a whole, but place their desires about the development of the Alexandria Waterfront into their parochial view which dominates their perspectives. This does not speak well for their abilities to govern all of Alexandria, and therefore I cannot support their candidacies.