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May 4, 2012 Published in Choice 2013, Other News

CAAWP Elects New Leadership

Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan have elected Bert Ely and Mark Mueller as co-chairs.  Andrew Macdonald and Boyd Walker, CAAWP’s co-founders, have stepped down as co-chairs to run for political office – Macdonald for Mayor of Alexandria and Walker for a seat on the Alexandria City Council.

In the coming months CAAWP will be focused on raising funds to support a two-part challenge to the legality of the waterfront plan and rezoning that City Council adopted on January 21.  That challenge has been mounted by three CAAWP activists and the plaintiffs in this legal challenge – April Burke, Beth Gibney, and Marie Kux.  The three plaintiffs are owners of property near portions of the waterfront that Council rezoned.  So far this challenge has cost nearly $100,000 in legal fees.

On April 12, the three plaintiffs scored a major victory when Alexandria’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) ruled that the City’s Planning Director, Faroll Hamer, erred in rejecting a protest against the waterfront rezoning filed by the plaintiffs and several hundred other eligible property owners.  Had Hamer not rejected the protest, Council would have to have voted by at least 6 to 1 to approve the waterfront plan and zoning change, as provided for in the City’s zoning ordinance.

The BZA decision invalidated the zoning change, which knocks a big hole in the waterfront plan.  However, the City has announced that it will appeal the BZA’s decision to the Alexandria Circuit Court.  In effect, the City is appealing a decision made by a board that Council appointed.  That appeal will add greatly to the plaintiffs’ legal expenses.

CAAWP also supports the plaintiffs’ appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court of a Circuit Court decision which let stand the 5 to 2 vote by which Council approved the waterfront plan and zoning change.  A Supreme Court decision reversing the Circuit Court would have the effect of invalidating the entire waterfront plan.

“The three plaintiffs in this litigation already have incurred nearly $100,000 in legal bills trying to get the City to act lawfully,” said new co-chair Mark Mueller, “and much more will have to be spent to win this battle.”  “Even worse,” stated Ely, “Alexandria taxpayers will bear the huge cost of the City’s legal bills as the City tries to avoid playing by its own rules, as set forth in the zoning ordinance Council enacted.”

Prior to being elected as one of CAAWP’s new co-chairs, Mueller helped to organize the campaign to gather signatures from property owners protesting the waterfront zoning change.  Ely has served as CAAWP’s treasurer and also was a member of the City’s Waterfront Plan Work Group.

Macdonald and Walker commended their successors: “Bert and Mark will do a great job carrying on the work of CAAWP that we launched a year ago.”

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