Alexandria officials threaten to take Boat Club lot - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Alexandria officials threaten to take Boat Club lot

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City officials in Alexandria are now threatening to take the half-acre parking lot owned by the Old Dominion Boat Club through the process of eminent domain.

Mayor William Euille (D) says the land is the "missing link" in the city's effort to establish a nearly-continuous riverfront park.

Now that the old Robinson Terminal warehouse properties have been sold, Alexandria will permit somewhat increased development on those sites in order to get guaranteed public access to the riverfront. The dream of city officials is a nearly-continuous riverfront park for pedestrians and bicyclists.

A physical impediment to that dream is the boat launch and the parking lot owned by the Old Dominion Boat Club. The city and the Boat Club have been negotiating over this half acre for 15 years.

"It's gotten to the point where, you know, every time we think we're there, there's like two steps backwards," Mayor Euille told a crowded news conference Tuesday. "Or there's something else that's placed on the agenda for discussion."

City officials say, under their latest proposal, Alexandria would take some of the parking lot land for a sidewalk (along an alley called The Strand). The city would take more land, right at the edge of the river, for the continuous pedestrian walkway.

But, planners say, that would leave just over half the lot for the boat club. And the boat club could continue to use that land for parking cars. The city says boats could be stored a mile or so away in the Eisenhower Valley.

Alexandria officials stress they do not want the boat club's building, just the adjacent parking lot. At the news conference, city officials used the term "eminent domain" several times. That is the process by which cities and counties can take land for public purposes. Both the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions require just compensation for such a taking.

"So, it is going to be a public-accessible park: no buildings," explained Alexandria City Manager Rashad Young. "No development would occur. It would be park -- open space."

Members of the Old Dominion Boat Club believe the half-acre lot is integral to their club's existence. Member Sean Gallagher told reporters: "If you go to any other boating [or] marine operation around, there is access and parking associated with that operation [you find that] anywhere you go."

The city council will hold a public hearing on November 19 and then decide whether to keep talking with the Boat Club, or start legal proceedings to take the land.

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