Council members on Saturday are expected to decide the final fate of a fence.
They are slated to address what to do with a proposal for placing a short-term safety fence around the Windmill Hill Park bulkhead along the Alexandria waterfront.
The city sought public comment on five fence styles earlier this year for the structure that city staff say would have about a five-year lifespan.
Some community members let it be known through a city-sponsored poll and public comment that a nautical rope fence with an approximate cost of $32,000 was the top choice with the runner-up a split rail with a pricetag of $8,500. Other options included a post-and-wire with a cost of $16,000, ornamental aluminum ($34,000) or Kentucky board ($16,000).
There also was an August community meeting on the issue.
The safety fence design options and public comment were presented to the Board of Architectural Review at a Sept. 5 public hearing and the BAR approved with a 4-2 vote the split-rail option.
Some board members found the nautical rope design too "high style," "Disney-esque" and "more appropriate for an amusement park" than for this portion of the waterfront where no fence historically would have been located, according to public documents.
Critics opposing the design noted that once the fence is installed, it's likely to "be with us for an indefinite period beyond 2017" due to a lack of funding for a permanent structure, reads a letter from residents of 712 S. Union, Michael and Megan Adams. Others expressed concern that it would set precedent for future fences along the waterfront, blocking access.
The city, which is currently in fiscal year 2013, has earmarked $4 million for the bulkhead replacement in fiscal years 2016 and 2017. Following the replacement, there are no plans to keep a fence in place, according to Jack Browand with the city’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities.
"At this time, we do not have a cost estimate as to the replacement. Potential costs will be determined after considerable community input on preferred design elements," Browand told Patch via email.
Yvonne Wright, speaking for the Old Town Civic Association, at a June BAR meeting opposed the fence. She was joined in opposition by John Hynan of the Historic Alexandria Foundation and residents Mark Mueller, Townsend "Van" Van Fleet, Linda Couture, Bert Ely and Poul Hertel, among others.
Ultimately, the BAR's September decision was appealed, sending the final say to City Council.
Council this Saturday could determine that the fence isn’t warranted, it could uphold the decision of the BAR for the split-rail or favor what the community wanted, the nautical rope, said Browand.
He added that city staff recommend the construction of a fence for safety reasons and the BAR was addressing a specific design, not whether a fence should be installed.
"You could say that on Saturday, council is addressing the final fate of a fence," Browand said.