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Circuit Court Dismisses Waterfront Lawsuit

Court dismisses complaint without ability to refile.

The Alexandria Circuit Court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the legality and substance of the city’s waterfront small area plan and its affiliated language that would allow zoning changes along the riverside.

City residents Michael Peck and Elizabeth Baldwin filed suit in February, claiming that the waterfront plan approved by City Council was “arbitrary and capricious” and constituted “illegal spot zoning.”

City Council .

The Circuit Court dismissed the complaint without the ability to refile, finding that the record of proceedings leading up to the approval of the plan made it clear as a matter of law that the council had considered and weighed all of the issues that the plaintiffs said were not considered, according to a statement released by the city.

"It was a telling factor that the court—when it was addressing the case on its merits—affirmed what the City Council had done," Christopher Spera, deputy city attorney, told Patch.

The court noted the more than 4,000 pages of documents were part of the record of the City Council’s consideration of the plan.

"The court’s ruling speaks to itself and we understand that this is a sensitive matter and there's a lot of community interest," Spera said. "The city is committed to working through the various pieces of litigation and seeing the plan go forward."

A separate case regarding adequacy of notice in adopting the "W-1 text amendment" governing zoning changes is still pending with the court. It is set for trial in early spring.

If the court upholds the BZA-related case, which addresses more of a procedural issue rather than the content of the plan, City Council would be required to vote again on the waterfront plan and it would need a supermajority vote for passage.

Ann Dorman August 17, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Terrific! This confirms that the Council acted appropriately and those that voted in favor of the plan are to be congratulated and supported!
Edgar Warfield August 18, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Great news -- maybe we can now proceed to return our waterfront to productive uses, instead of half-abandoned warehouses. It's a shame we had to spend so many taxpayer dollars just to support Macdonald's mayoral campaign (which is reall what this was all about, in my opinion). Regards, etc., E. Warfield
NoBS August 18, 2012 at 10:38 AM
Edgar is right. This was mostly about Andrew McDonald's personal vendetta, and a few rich people in Old Town who don't want to make "their" waterfront accessible to the masses. If Andrew wants to spend his own money on appeal after appeal, I suppose that's his right, but taxpayers end up paying for the responsive pleadings, etc. Enough already. You lost, Andrew. Let it go.
JohnInNova August 18, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Great news! Now Alexandria and the Waterfront can finally move Forward!
Katy Cannady August 18, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Actually not much of anything has happened. The court case based on the city's violating its own ordinances has not been dismissed. Our Board of Zoning Appeals, whose members are all Council appointees, ruled that the Council acted outside the law, which in this case required a Council super majority to enact the so-called text amendment. If the city is ever able to go forward with the waterfront plan, the river will be less accessible. When we were able to see a presentation of the floor area 3 hotel proposed for the Cummings site, it clearly blocked ordinary citizens from reaching the water and had even less open space than shown in the big model of the new waterfront that included this hotel development. As for the lawsuit being a contribution to Andrew Macdonald's campaign, I think it has had exactly the opposite effect and that the campaign would be better off if there were no lawsuit. Citizens who might otherwise contribute to the campaign or instead contributing to the legal fund for the lawsuit.
Andrew Macdonald August 18, 2012 at 06:11 PM
To call this a personal vendetta verges on slander. This issue is personal because I grew up in Old Town along the river, and I took a personal interest in what was going to happen along the waterfront. These comments overlook the fact that many residents opposed the proposed rezoning and took active (need I say personal) interest in the issue. These citizens that you disparagingly call “wealthy” are the very ones that help pay taxes, which in turn fund our schools. The City and in this regard I mean the Mayor and City Council could have easily defused the conflict by doing what should have been done from day one. Engage the community in a serious discussion about the future of the waterfront rather then trying to push their vision for it. It’s completely false to suggest that I got involved in order to run for elected office again. If the City were as well managed as you suggest and citizens were real participants in such planning efforts there would be need to replace the current mayor and I would not be running. I am not the one that will lose if this plan is not modified, rather it will the communist as a whole that not benefit as it should.
oldtowner August 18, 2012 at 07:03 PM
OMG....I can't believe Mr. Macdonald is still trying to claim that City Council did not "engage the community in a serious discussion" about the waterfront. Again, just because someone listens to you and doesn't agree with you doesn't mean they did not have a discussion with you. Get over it! And by the way, many folks in Alexandria pay taxes that help fund our schools...not just the wealthy in Old Town. If you choose to live in an expensive house, you should know that your property taxes are going to be higher. This waterfront issue is still dominated by a very vocal minority....some Old Town folks who don't want anything to change. In my many years living in Alexandria, Old Town and elsewhere, I have noted that many Old Town residents (not all) don't like much of anything....don't like tourists, don't like tour buses, don't like restaurants, don't like festivals, don't alike any development, don't like any change. Good luck with that!
Haunches August 18, 2012 at 10:38 PM
We recently learned according to news reports that the city was developing the plan with developers for many months before disclosing it to the public, and then tried to get it through all approval processes in a very short time frame. Characterizing it as a vocal minority is incorrect, or the city would have approved it at its first opportunity without restarting the entire process from scratch. In the end, it just wanted to approve what the developers wanted anyway without thinking through the risks.
Scooby's Doo August 18, 2012 at 11:01 PM
+1 Best comment.
Mark Mueller August 19, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Check this article out which talks about the potomac river potentially rising 2 feet by 2050. Zoiks!! http://bellehaven.patch.com/articles/more-extreme-weather-linked-to-climate-change
lynnhampton August 19, 2012 at 02:53 AM
Katy If I read you correctly, if/when the court agrees with the city on the BZA action, you will decide, it is all correct law and the city rightly worked for 3 years to develop a plan for all of Alexandria. Lynn
lynnhampton August 19, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Mark I thought Republicans did not believe in global warming. Or is it just when it is convenient? From the time you said to me (at city council meeting), "you're dead in the water" (I assume for our support of the waterfront plan), I was confused about your thoughts and motives. For over three years, the City has worked to develop a compromise to both develop the waterfront and have the development work within the city. The waterfront plan is elegant in this fashion. As we move through to a realization of the waterfront plan, I hope you and others can participate in the final design opportunities. We will soon a highly joyable waterfront that is shared by the entire Alexandria community.
Katy Cannady August 19, 2012 at 12:42 PM
It does not matter who believes in global warming and who does not. Just as it would not matter if a majority of citizens believed the earth was flat, it would still be round. The Democratic members of City Council appear to be among those who do not believe in global warming since they approved a water front plan that ignores it. There is a plan coming before Council in the fall to spend several millions dollars for flood control. It is vastly less than would be needed to combat the rise in water levels in the Potomac as the earth warms.
Mark Mueller August 19, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Can we stop with the name calling please? On these boards I have seen folks call Old Town residents racist, elitist, professional naysayers and even republicans... You also question our/my motives. How about this for a shocking admission - I love Alexandria and especially old town. It is a special place I plan to call home and therefore want to see it preserved and responsibly developed. Whether people want to call the mayor a coward for not debating Macdonald or call the city attorney unprofessional for the swipes he takes at citizens is up to them. My focus is and shall be on the waterfront. As to this particular article, all I can say is "stay tuned...."
oldtowner August 19, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Mr. Mueller: How can you say you want to stop name calling, then turn around and repeat negative comments about the Mayor and City Attorney? Rather hypocritical.
Katy Cannady August 19, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Criticizing or even just repeating criticism of elected officials (the Mayor) or an upper level city official is part of the democratic process. It is part of the ongoing debate in any democratically governed entity as to how we shall be governed. This debate is useful, even essential. I too wish the Mayor would agree to an extended one-on-one debate of his nine year record as Mayor.
Stephen August 20, 2012 at 01:32 PM
One more hurdle out of the way. One step closer to a proper waterfront for the city of Alexandria!!!
Doug August 20, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Congratulated and supported for what? For following the rules?
My Answer is NO. Now, What is the Question? August 20, 2012 at 10:59 PM
This is just throwing grease on an already slippery slope that will end in less dilapidated warehouses and vacant buildings surrounded by hurricane fence on our sacred waterfront (the horror...I love those empty buildings, they're so vibrant and really represent the best of our community). And, dare I say, this waterfront "plan" threatens the private parking lot for my Boat Club. You say public access is important? Well sir, I am part of the public and what am I supposed to do, not park near my yacht!? Or, or, what....park in a Public Parking structure! (I am not part of "that" public...). If these people would just reach out to the community for input (read: my input), then we (I) could be part of the process (run the process) and this could all be resolved (assuming everyone does what I want). I mean how hard is to improve the waterfront without changing any of the things I like. Just remove the buildings I don't use and replace them with things that I like...you know, new buildings that represent the historic waterfront (but these new buildings shouldn’t look like the warehouses that use to be on the waterfront, b/c I don't like the way the old warehouse looked…I kind of have a mental image of what I think the historic waterfront should have looked like and we should aim for “recreating” that).
Mike Urena August 21, 2012 at 01:41 AM
This plea for civility almost sounds reasonable but then I remember this is the same person that wrote this: http://oldtownalexandria.patch.com/articles/letter-to-the-editor-getting-a-hoofhold Give me a break.
donotpaveparadise August 23, 2012 at 07:55 PM
I don't think the Democrats who support the waterfront plan care if the Potomac rises. I guess that would give new meaning to the name Waterfront for All. But the real point is that there has never been a real analysis of alternatives. The mayor cannot hide behind the facade of open debate that does not exist. The refusal to debate Macdonald is the same kind of refusal to listen to the public many members of Council showed throughout most of the waterfront planning process

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