The Old Dominion Boat Club announced on Tuesday that it has entered a settlement agreement with the U.S. government over land rights at the foot of King Street.
The club said a deal was reached on May 15, concluding a 39-year-old dispute.
“We are thrilled that this long battle is over,” ODBC President Miles Holtzman said. “Aside from putting this litigation behind us and recouping a substantial amount of the legal fees we have spent over the last 39 years, this agreement with the National Park Service - represented by the Department of Justice - further affirms the right to our position on the Alexandria waterfront.“
At issue was the 1973 suit filed by United States against 34 Alexandria "riparian owners" to take the property for a public walkway. In this case, a riparian owner is someone who owns land along the Potomac River.
The boat club and three other defendants disagreed while the remainder settled.
The ODBC had filed a motion for summary judgment, which the United States District Court granted in August 2009, finding in favor of the ODBC.
Following an appeal by the U.S. Justice Department on Jan. 11, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its decision in favor of the ODBC, affirming the judgment of the lower court.
Holtzman told Patch that the new settlement was in the "very high six figures. We consider what we got back to be a very big win," adding that the club will explore using the money to expand its already robust roster of community activities.
Holtzman said in a letter to the editor this week that the club had spent more than a million dollars on that federal case.
He would also like to explore replacing the chain link fence near the waterside, which he recalled as something the city "put up one evening."
"In the early 2000s, I petitioned the [Board of Architectural Review] to put something more environmentally and aesthetically appealing there but the National Park Service wrote the mayor a letter saying the mayor shouldn't hear our case because of the outstanding legal issue," Holtzman said.
He hopes that now the federal case is closed, the club might be able to move forward on that.
Holtzman said the settlement was spurred by the January 2011 court decision. "Both sides saw that as an opportunity to close this out," he said. The club sought to recoup some of its monies after that judgment and the negotiations took about a year, according to Holtzman.
While this federal case is now closed, the club must still wrangle with the Virginia Supreme Court's decision to send parts of a local suit back to Alexandria Circuit Court.
“The City of Alexandria is trying a similar move to take the Boat Club’s property through eminent domain under the guise of waterfront development,” said a Tuesday press release issued by the boat club. “This case is being waged in court and in the court of public opinion.”
City Attorney James Banks told Patch on Tuesday that there is no “eminent domain option” on the table in regards to the boat club’s land.
"We want to be a good neighbor," Holtzman said. "We'd like to have a better situation down there, and we'd like to keep talking to the city. The city is the one who stopped talking to us."