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.