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Waterfront Work Group Strives for Consensus on Flooding Mitigation, Parks

Waterfront group makes headway, but concerns loom over best approaches.

The group striving for common ground on the city’s waterfront redevelopment plans met this week to address flood mitigation and some aspects of parks and recreation.

Group member Mindy Lyle asked City Engineer Emily Baker, on a scale of 100 to zero, what are the city’s chances of getting flood mitigation grants, to which Baker said “not zero, but low.”

Businessman Bert Ely, who is also a member of a group seeking an alternative to the city's plan, asked why it should include recommendations for flood mitigation at all.

“Is it a significant enough issue?,” he asked.

“I believe so and that’s what we heard from the community,” said Baker. “It should be incorporated in what’s being done in parks and open space.”

The city’s flood mitigation plan would protect 19 structures at a cost of $15,000 to $20,000 per structure, according to Baker.

Christopher Ballard, a principal at McWilliams/Ballard, said: “It’s as much a physical issue as a marketing issue. There’s a perception – when it rains, people stay away…People may say I can’t believe they’ve gone to all this time and effort and not address the flooding issue.”

City Councilman Paul Smedberg reiterated that plan should include Windmill Hill Park and other further points in flood mitigation. “It’s not just three blocks,” he said, referring to the centrally located King and Union Street area.

Nate Macek, who is the city’s Waterfront Committee chairman, noted that there’s a cost to the city for debris cleanup from flooding.

Several group members, including urban planner Elliot Rhodeside, along with Baker expressed concern about the ability to effectively elevate some streets to achieve flood mitigation.

The group also focused its efforts on reaching an agreement regarding development at the foot of King Street. They agreed that a plan should include a new pier extending from near the foot of King Street for water taxis and permanent or visiting ships of character like the Godspeed.

Most members agreed, but Ely expressed concern that “essentially that means the [Old Dominion Boat Club] loses its parking lot. “The notion of a pier at the bottom of King Street has negative implications for one of the boat club’s piers….Is King Street the best place for water taxis?”

The group, which appeared to move at a faster clip than earlier meetings, also dipped into parks and public spaces.

Lyle urged for a connected waterfront that allows for complete public access but Ely reminded her “there is still some privately owned property along the shoreline.”

“Right now, the waterfront is a series of parks that don’t really product a clear, high quality designed place along the waterfront,” said Rhodeside. “There needs to be an integrated design that uses the waterfront holistically from Daingerfield Island to Jones Point.”

Ely disagreed that there should be continuous public access.

There was some back and forth over agreeing on the statement “ there should be a net increase in parks and public spaces along the waterfront.”

David Olinger of the Old Town Civic Association said it should be a “significant increase” but Lt. Gen Bob Wood who participated via phone, said it should say “net increase.”

“The city has put forward an effort to buy up as much open space as possible,” Smedberg said. “Clearly there’s a commitment there to add a net increase.”

The group also took a look at whether they could agree upon the use of parks and public spaces including small-scale activities for families and children.

Ely said he wanted to make sure that a particular structure associated with such activities would not be too big “like a big rollercoaster.”

The group decided to revisit some of the parks and open spaces issue, which has seen open discussion, but remains a sticking point.

After the meeting, Smedberg said he was pleased with the group’s progress and was glad they were getting into some of the more specific issues rather than administrative.

The next meeting will be held Oct. 12 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Cameron Station Great Room at 200 Cameron Station Blvd. It is open to the public.

Gina Baum October 04, 2011 at 01:43 PM
The City did explore this option and came to the conclusion that museums on the waterfront would deter visitors from the many historic sites we currently have... essentially putting them all out of business. Not to mention Alexandria couldn't compete with the kind of museums nearby like the Smithsonian(s).
Dennis Auld October 04, 2011 at 03:58 PM
Well Andrew, I am now somewhat disappointed. Earlier in this thread CAAWP was promoting the release of their plan, on Oct. 30, and I was looking forward to see a substantive document that could be looked at, reviewed, and commented on. Now you are calling it a "our concepts" instead of a plan. Does this mean that what we will see are a list of desires, without any supporting documentation to back them up? I will still be anxious to see the "concepts" but my expectations are now somewhat lowered.
Gina Baum October 04, 2011 at 05:06 PM
In response to Andrew, spot zoning, downzoning is how you get all parks and museum.
djrobb October 04, 2011 at 05:15 PM
In order to be seriously considered, I do hope the CAAWP plan includes both an analysis of the legal situation and the financial situation. This may be a tall order for a plan produced for free without consultants but it's important that what is presented is grounded within reality. It will need to be within the bounds of feasability showing a clear and viable rode map for it to give city counsel pause. So, it can't just include the what, but also the how.
Gina Baum October 04, 2011 at 05:22 PM
Where did Andrew's comment about not agreeing with his plan = people don't care about the city.... GO? So those of us who do not agree with the almighty opposition DON'T CARE? That's quite a statement Andrew. "what is a vision but one think is very clear: the report we will release on Oct. 30 is being put together, at no taxpayer expense, by citizens who care deeply about about the town they live in." ....A la the rest of us apparently don't care or don't count in his view.

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