West End Development, Transportation Dominate Mayoral Forum

Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille and challenger Andrew Macdonald fielded questions Saturday at Goodwin House in the West End.

With three days until the election, Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille and challenger Andrew Macdonald tackled the thorny issues of West End development, transportation and transit during a forum Saturday morning at the Goodwin House, a home for seniors off Beauregard Street.

Audience members posed questions primarily focused on development in the West End, including BRAC 133 at Mark Center and the Beauregard Small Area Plan. Euille, a Democrat, said the West End in particular poses problems for pedestrians. The Beauregard plan will improve pedestrian access, he said.

Euille also addressed concerns that the city could have avoided the building of the BRAC 133 building in Mark Center.

“Yes, it was a mistake,” he said. “But, you know what? We, the city government, can’t tell the federal government what to do when they want to do it.”

BRAC was ultimately located in Mark Center because it cost $2 million less than the Victory Center site on Eisenhower Avenue, Euille said.

Macdonald stressed the importance of working with neighboring jurisdictions to coordinate transit routes. He also said many local residents feel left out of decision-making processes involving transportation and development.

“Communities are often feeling that we haven’t thought it out very well, that we really figured out what we’re doing with all this spending and how much of an impact it will have on the new development,” Mcdonald said.

Macdonald said residents’ concerns about transportation issues weren’t taken into account in the city’s waterfront redevelopment plan and the Beauregard plan.

Euille stressed that the Beauregard plan was developed by a group of local residents. The property owners in the area had no cohesive plan for redevelopment and were brought together under the plan to work with the community and city to develop a comprehensive plan, he said.

People who currently live in affordable housing on Beauregard Street ultimately would have been forced out due to redevelopment and rising rental rates, Euille said. The city’s plan has reserved at least 800 affordable housing units for the next 30 years.

“The folks who live there today were concerned about being forced out,” he said. “The market would have forced them out anyway.”

Macdonald said he’s not against neighborhood redevelopment plans but said the community didn’t necessarily support the Beauregard plan. He also argued that local residents were left out of the planning process.

“My feeling is, it’s not that we don’t want a plan, but we want a plan that the community has a real buy-in and feels comfortable with,” he said.

Macdonald added: “I don’t think we do a very good job with negotiating and working with the community on these things right from the scratch. And in the Beauregard case, yes there were meetings. Citizens were involved. But the real plan as coming straight from the developers’ camp."

Euille also said the Beauregard plan would encourage pedestrian walkability and increase neighborhood connectivity.

“My vision for the West End… is a West End that is attractive, that we can have a higher quality of life, that we can enjoy just like the rest of this city, for people who live in Del Ray and Old Town,” he said. “There’s no reason the West End needs to be chopped up like it is and you can’t function without using a car.”

Macdonald said his vision for the West End was whatever the community supported.

“Are we really creating a sense of place as we develop?” he asked. “Are we really creating the communities and the walkable nature, or are we really just adding more lanes for cars?”

In response to a question from the audience, Euille said he would vote against a question on the ballot limiting the use of eminent domain but added he doesn’t support taking private property to sell to another private owner. Macdonald said he remained “on the fence” on the question.

To read more about elections on Nov. 6, click "elections" under the News tab above. 

cwer November 05, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Ms. Leonard’s excellent report gives voters meaningful insight into the differences between these two candidates. Much has been accomplished during Mayor Euille’s tenure and understandably not everyone likes everything. However it seems all Mr. Macdonald has to offer is criticism. That’s not leadership. Letter after letter, posting after posting, meeting after meeting - years of meetings in the case of the waterfront plan and the Beauregard plan - Mr. Macdonald complains about citizens being left out of decisions and their concerns not being considered. They are only left out if they choose not to show up. This City hardly lacks for meetings and opportunities for public comment. If the results aren’t to Mr. Macdonald’s liking he appears all too ready to criticize the process and the people involved. What practical, constructive alternatives has he put forward? If he was unable to get the majority of citizens to agree with him does that meet his definition of people’s concerns not being considered? Mr. Macdonald states the Beauregard plan is coming straight from the developers’ camp. Did he not expect developers to put forward a plan? With all the meetings over the last couple of years what has Mr. Macdonald come up with apart from not liking much of what anyone else is doing? Did he demonstrate leadership in offering alternatives? Did he attract a following beyond simple naysayers?
cwer November 05, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Ms. Leonard provides a couple of key insights into Mr. Macdonald’s approach. His vision for the West End is “whatever the community supported.” That’s not leadership. The Beauregard plan evolved from community input - it is what a majority of the community supported. Certainly not everyone agrees with every aspect but a lot of people worked together to produce it. If Mr. Macdonald didn’t like it he had ample opportunity to lead the process in a different direction but apparently he was unsuccessful in doing so. He prefers to simply criticize the work produced by others. On the ballot question limiting the use of eminent domain, just hours before voting Mr. Macdonald says he’s “on the fence”. That’s not leadership. One senses he isn’t sure “what the community supports” and doesn’t want to alienate any voters by taking a position if he can avoid doing so. Criticism is easy; leadership putting forward better alternatives and building broad-based consensus is far more challenging.
Kerry smith November 05, 2012 at 07:39 PM
So, tell me cwer, were you one of the developers who organized and ran the meetings and then claimed that the residents all had an opportunity to be heard?
oldtowner November 05, 2012 at 08:42 PM
pretty snide, Kerry Smith; It is very telling that Macdonald hasn't decided about the eminent domain issue on the ballot. Boy, what's he waiting for? Since he has switched parties at convenient times and resigned from Council, I'm not surprised he doesn't now how he feels about it. He is only against stuff, never puts forward a positive idea about anything. As usual, if you don't like a result, complain about the process. That's all he ever does. Zero leadership or vision.


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