Lawyers representing the Robinson Terminal at the Waterfront Plan Work Group meeting clarified for group members a few lingering issues regarding hotels along the shoreline and the Coast Guard.
Group member Bob Wood asked lawyer Duncan Blair about an Apr. 5 letter from Robinson Terminal to the city’s Waterfront Planning Commission and signed by Robert Taylor.
The letter states that Robinson retained a former Marriott senior executive as a consultant, who advised “that a hotel simply is not a viable use, specifically at the Robinson sites, in the foreseeable future…Even if the hotels could be viable today there is no reason to think the hotel use would be the best use at the –unknown- time of future development.”
“The letter shows that a consultant said hotels were not feasible,” Wood said.
Blair responded: “It was written not to say don’t put a hotel. It was written to say don’t require a hotel,” adding that if a hotel were required, there could be a situation “where you end up with a template of required uses.”
Blair said the idea is to “put more tools in the toolbox” offering up the idea of putting a culinary cooking school at Robinson Terminal. “Why not broaden your uses?” he said.
“I’m reading it one way, you’re reading it another,” Wood said.
Blair shot back: “I wrote it.”
Group member Bert Ely pointed out that a 1982 settlement does not allow a hotel on that site.
If there were a hotel, that would have to be a change of interpretation in the agreement, Blair said.
The lawyers also clarified what sort of use the Coast Guard is permitted at the Robinson Terminal.
They said that the terminal is a Coast Guard mandated facility but there is no “Code Red” where the Coast Guard would be allowed to come in and take over the port.
At the end of the meeting, public commenter Van Van Fleet said the city should speak with the Baltimore district to determine if the city’s flooding plan is feasible.
Andrew Macdonald, a founder of Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan and a former city vice mayor, said he has concerns over the number of ex parte discussion that have occurred over the last two years “that should have been discussed in the public. I think that’s a real mistake.”
He said the current approach is taking the city “down a road that is counterproductive.”
Speaker Michael Hobbs recommended that the group start its examination by looking at what is currently permitted and what currently exists. He compared the waterfront development to the new BRAC-133 military complex.
After the meeting, Gina Baum who co-founded Waterfront for All, a group supporting the city's redevelopment plan, said she feels it's time for City Council to vote on the plan.
"I think the most interesting point to be taken away from this meeting is the reality that so far there is only one boutique hotel in the near future. The warehouses at the bottom of Prince and S. Union will be revitalized ...The other Robinson Terminal buildings are operating a profit and have no plans to go anywhere soon," she said. "Should they go on the market in the future, the opposition, just like any developer, would have an equal opportunity to buy the land. Should the opposition's plan be feasible...they would have plenty of time to implement it regardless of whether the city's plan moves forward...It's time to vote."