In an effort to close a longstanding conflict with the Old Dominion Boat Club, Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille and City Manager Rashad Young announced the scheduling of a special public hearing to discuss options for implementing the city’s waterfront plan in regards to the boat club’s parking lot and adjacent areas, including the use of eminent domain.
Located near the foot of King Street, Euille called the parking lot “the missing link” in the city’s plan for waterfront redevelopment, crucial for assuring connectivity and public access along the shore of the Potomac River.
Following more than a decade of negotiations, the city offered a compromise to the boat club over the summer.
Euille said there has been no response.
“It just seems like we’re never going to get there,” said Euille, who had previously said he opposed using eminent domain. “After 10 years, I need to change my approach.”
Euille said the public hearing in front of City Council, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 19, is “the right approach to take,” allowing citizens to weigh in on the matter.
“Citizens are eager to get this process moving,” Euille said. “I can’t go anywhere throughout this city without people asking about waterfront redevelopment.”
Along with park connectivity and the implementation of redevelopment along the waterfront as laid out in the plan, city officials said the property is key to implementing flood mitigation measures.
Routine flooding at the foot of King Street and elsewhere along the waterfront has long been an issue. The redevelopment plan calls for committing millions of dollars into rectifying the soggy bottom problem.
Frank Fannon, a former city councilman and ODBC member, said years of animosity between the club and city have made negotiations tough and emotional.
“As a former councilman, I’ve been on both sides of this issue,” said Fannon, whose family has been a member of the club for more than a century. “A mutual agreement needs to be worked out. There are thousands of details from the boat club’s perspective… Eminent domain is not the answer.”
Fannon pointed to an amendment nearly 75 percent of Virginia voters supported in last November’s election strengthening property rights and prohibiting the use of eminent domain in the commonwealth for private enterprise, job creation, tax revenue generation or economic development.
However, the city eyes the space for public space and connectivity.
The amendment also expanded the definition of just compensation, potentially increasing the cost to the city if it initiates the use of eminent domain.
The city can initiate the use of eminent domain with a simple majority vote by council. The following step would be securing a professional valuation of the property.
Young said the city has “tried to be reasonable in compromising our positions… Why we can’t get [to a solution] is a question.”
He added that the boat club has always been seen as a positive thing on the city’s waterfront. Young reminded that the city’s interests sit solely on the parking lot and not the boat club building or marina.