Development and developer profits trump the safety, welfare and concerns of Alexandria citizens, and the character of the third oldest historic district in the United States| Letter to the Editor | Hal Hardaway

“Nightmare on Union Street”

At the Robinson Terminal North City Council hearing on 17th
October, I fell through yet another cosmic bunny hole at city hall.
To wit:

  • The introductory briefing on the project I took to be from the developer.
    Only after someone told me did I realize it was being briefed by city staff.
    Used words like “celebrated”. Hardly objective.
  • RTN proximity to the eastern terminus of the King Street Trolley was
    repeatedly misrepresented as a “couple blocks”, in a staff effort to justify
    the developer’s request for a waiver for city-required onsite
    parking for four restaurants. Where I grew up, a “couple” = two.
    Only after questioning by Vice Mayor Silberberg did the truth emerge. Five blocks.
  • Only after a press by the Vice Mayor did staff utter the word
    “arsenic”, the presence of which at RTN had been obfuscated all afternoon.
  • Approximately five thousand truckloads of arsenic/other chemicals-laden
    soil will be trucked from the site through Alexandria’s residential neighborhoods
    and the haul routes of other municipalities. The soil also contains lead and
    petroleum byproducts, at a minimum. Neighbors pleaded for barging, but…
  • Staff recommended trucking, due to the “cost differential”.
    The developer added that “on any project a developer has to
    fund, it’s all about the entire cost”.
  • Talk at the Ad Hoc Waterfront Construction Monitoring Group,
    a citizens/city entity, was spun by staff to indicate the group’s
    approval. That’s not what I’ve observed at every one of its meetings.
  • Multiple missteps and “growing pains” at the Carr hotel site are being
    used by the city as “lessons learned” to “get it right” at RTN. Seems to me
    a city chartered in 1749 would have pretty much gotten it right
    by now. The city is now looking at “staffing recommendations” to
    try and monitor development properly.
  • Multiple violations of the city’s own Waterfront Small Area Plan were
    pointed out by citizens, in the areas of parking and architectural context,
    to name a couple. But the developer invoked the same Waterfront Plan
    as a guiding light, and staff talked of compliance with the Plan. Guess to
    whom Council listened?

At this hearing, citizens spoke unanimously against the project,
for multiple, valid reasons. But Council approved it. It is quite clear
living here for sixteen years and from at least three years of fairly close
city hall observation that development and developer profits trump
the safety, welfare and concerns of Alexandria citizens, and the character
of the third oldest historic district in the United States. City Council,
staff and appointed boards and commissions side with the developers
against the will of the citizens in almost every instance.
If you’re sitting near properties that can be developed or redeveloped,
you’re next.

The only way to stop this systematic plunder of our
neighborhoods and heritage is to vote to replace the incumbent city council
with responsible individuals that will put the interests of citizens ahead of
developer profits. We have that opportunity on Tuesday, 3rd November.

Hal Hardaway
Alexandria City

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