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Updated: Virginia's High Court Favors Alexandria in Wales Alley Case

High court sends issue of easement rights back to Circuit Court.

The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the City of Alexandria in its appeal of a Circuit Court decision siding with the over rights of way in Wales Alley. 

“If the appeal had not been granted, we’d be bound by the 1972 decision, which we believe has nothing to do with this situation,” Deputy City Attorney Christopher Spera said. “The legal argument by the boat club and adopted by the Circuit Court was rejected by the Supreme Court.”

The Alexandria Circuit Court , agreeing that a 1972 ruling applied to this case, allowing the boat club to say its ownership of an easement in Wales Alley prevented the city from allowing the restaurant to offer outdoor dining to its patrons. 

The high court said it did not apply, because the 1972 case between the boat club and a private firm, called Dockside, does not apply to a case between the boat club and the City of Alexandria. 

“Given the nature of the city’s involvement in the current case, it is evident that the current dispute 'could [not] have been litigated' between ODBC and Dockside,” reads the high court’s opinion. 

“We are certainly disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision to remand this case to the Circuit Court for further hearings based on the court’s order,” said ODBC President Miles Holtzman. “We are especially disappointed that the court chose not to rule on the legality of the city’s allowing Virtue Feed & Grain to construct an outdoor dining patio."

Holtzman added: “We believe the Circuit Court will again see this case for what it is and reaffirm its decision to uphold our private property rights. The issue is not settled."

Alexandria Circuit Court Judge John McGrath had said in an earlier ruling that the boat club, which is located at the end of King Street, has an easement on the alley connecting Union Street to the Strand and Wales Alley. The judge said no obstructions could be built in the alley, but the city appealed to the high court.

The city had granted a permit allowing restaurateurs Meshelle and Cathal Armstrong to operate outdoor dining in Wales Alley.

The issue of whether the boat club’s easement rights, which date back to a 1789 deed, supersedes the use of the alley as a public right of way and so under the city’s jurisdiction still must be determined. 

The high court sent the case back to the Circuit Court.

JamesOnThePotomac May 25, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Now What?
Haunches May 25, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Now comes more protracted litigation. The Chief Justice's opinion is interesting because she talks in negative terms about what a waste of time the litigation has been through today. Now it goes back and will take time to figure out how to move forward. Full Employment Act for land use lawyers in VIrginia.
Andrew Macdonald May 26, 2012 at 03:37 PM
But what does compromising really mean and how should it be achieved? I couldn't agree more that we should seek solutions to break this financially wasteful legal gridlock, but that will require us to begin the discussion from a place of real imagination and real dialogue (about alternatives, about all issues of concern.) Unfortunately, the City has not been willing to back down from their view of most of the issues involving the "redevelopment" of the waterfront. This sort of perspective kills compromise. I think that a lot of the public assumes that people don't want to compromise when in truth they simply want to be heard and listened to That's the sort of process that will lead to less conflict, to compromise that has a purpose and actually improves the final result. Andrew Andrew Macdonald for Mayor (I)
JD Valk May 26, 2012 at 08:53 PM
It would've done the city and its citizens and businesses good to look back at Dockside -- a business that utilized the city's deep-water port to offer unique goods from worldwide ports of call -- as a much better model to seek a better use out of that stretch of waterfront than the current non-starter of a plan. As it is, the city ought to get out of the lawsuit quamire at the current waterfront spot and turn towards the Mirant site for future waterfront-based development, being sure to get public input before hoisting fatally flawed plans drawn up in back rooms on an unsuspecting public.
joy e atess May 27, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Mr. Macdonald, thanks for your comment regarding compromise. I guess what I find particularly disappointing is that there really seems to be a pattern of large sums if money being spent on legal action and seemingly little compromise. The threat of legal action doesn't make for good compromise. I'm curios what the amount of money over the last few years spent on legal actions against The Boat Club, The Waterfront etc has been? If by your comment above your suggesting you can guide us out of this 'legal grid lock' and provide for an environment where compromise can flourish than with a doubt you'll have my full support in November. I' really would be interested to know the $ 's being thrown around in this 'legal grid lock' I'm sure it's large sum and that's sad, perhaps a good investigative story for 'the patch'? With respect to Wales Alley, it seems like there's plenty of room for access and outdoor dining I just can't see why its either or/all or nothing, after all who really ends up footing the legal bill? It's disappointing.....

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