What is the goal?
Public access to the entire Waterfront has been a City goal for decades. Most of that access has been accomplished except for the very important location where King Street meets the Potomac River. The Waterfront Plan makes it clear that the property at the foot of King Street is the center of the Waterfront Plan. Everything that happens along the Waterfront culminates at this keystone location where the Waterfront Plan calls for a public plaza called Fitzgerald Square. The City's goal is to complete the Waterfront access and establish the center of the Waterfront Plan.
What is the issue?
For more than 10 years, the City has made every effort to reach a consensual resolution with the Old Dominion Boat Club concerning the club's parking lot and adjacent areas, which are located in this key area of the Waterfront Plan and critical to the City's longstanding goal of public access to the waterfront. Implementation of the Waterfront Plan has begun. The disputed property is the last barrier to ensuring the City's longstanding goal of public access and connectivity to the waterfront.
Has the City previously attempted to work with ODBC?
Over the years, the City and ODBC have made numerous attempts to resolve their differences regarding these properties, but a compromise has never been reached.
What prompted the recent round of negotiations?
At a special public hearing in November 2013, City Council voted to direct the City to continue negotiations with ODBC for 90 days. City Council also directed the City Manager and the City Attorney to take the steps required to initiate the eminent domain process for the necessary property in the event a consensual resolution is not reached.
How did the negotiations go?
The negotiating teams for the City and ODBC met on seven occasions since the 90-day period started. The last two meetings were conducted by a mediator who facilitated the communications between the City and ODBC. The City's negotiating team made every effort to accommodate the ODBC negotiating team's requests for additional meetings and requests to explore different options. The City's and ODBC's negotiating teams jointly developed two options for ODBC to choose from as an alternative to eminent domain. The ODBC negotiators have called a meeting of the ODBC membership in late March to discuss and vote on the options.
What has the City offered?
The City provided ODBC with two very fair offers that address the club's needs in a way that the monetary payment provided with eminent domain could not. The offers include:
- The "stay in place option" allows ODBC to stay in their current building, gives them more parking in a City owned parking garage nearby, and provides the club with an equal number of better boat slips. The City would also pay the club $2.5 million.
- The "move option" allows ODBC to build a new clubhouse on the Potomac in the Waterfront "Beachcombers" location at the foot of Prince Street with less flooding risk, better views and a large potential rooftop patio. ODBC would get 45 more usable surface parking spaces and this option would allow them to build a new boat ramp, piers and slips. The City would also pay the club $5 million.
How did the two parties arrive at the payment amounts for the offers?
The monetary compensation is a negotiated amount that represents the value of the property ODBC is transferring to the City, minus the value of the property the ODBC is obtaining, and addresses the fundamental value of a compromise.
Why is the City willing to compromise?
While the "move option" presented to ODBC represents a departure from some goals of the Waterfront Plan, the City is willing to compromise in order to allow a longstanding member of the Waterfront to continue to be located on the Waterfront. Additionally, this option allows the City to implement the new public plaza at the central intersection where the commercial activity of King Street meets the civic activities of the Waterfront.
What happens if ODBC does not accept either offer?
If neither option is accepted by ODBC, the City plans to begin the eminent domain process and will likely schedule a public hearing on the eminent domain resolution for May. The City's offers are a way to avoid using eminent domain, while providing ODBC with the same or better functional uses of other property, which is above and beyond the compensation required by law.
If the City uses eminent domain, what property will that include?
If the ODBC does not accept either of the offers made to them, the City will initiate the eminent domain process for the property where the ODBC parking lot is currently located. The eminent domain process will not include the clubhouse building.
Why does the City need to move forward now?
The City has hired a renowned landscape consultant to design the parks and public spaces along the Waterfront consistent with the Waterfront Small Area Plan (“Waterfront Plan”). Additionally, a number of development sites within the Waterfront Plan are being prepared for development in compliance with the Waterfront Plan. These projects, through conditions in their respective development approvals, will be an important source of funds and other resources to complete the public portions of the plan. Therefore, the City needs to take an action on the Old Dominion Boat Club (ODBC) parking lot and adjacent areas now to better formulate appropriate conditions for the development projects moving forward and to coordinate the improvements at the foot of King Street with the remainder of the Waterfront vision.
Can the Waterfront Plan be built without the use of eminent domain?
The City of Alexandria, like many local governments, reserves eminent domain as an action of last resort. Many elements of prior and current Waterfront Plans have been and are currently being implemented without the use of eminent domain. The portion of the Waterfront Plan for the foot of King Street up to Waterfront Park, which is the heart of the Plan, has proven to be difficult to implement given the land ownership issues. While most of the Waterfront Plan can and will be implemented, there is not yet a clear path to achieve the goals that the Waterfront Plan calls for on the ODBC parking lot.
Has the City Council attempted to come to an agreement with the ODBC prior to this point?
City Council and City staff have been in discussions with the ODBC, on and off, for at least the last 15 years. Some of these discussions have come very close and reflected compromises that would achieve the public goals and fair solutions for ODBC without the use of eminent domain. However none of the negotiations have resulted in a final agreement that can be implemented. While the City has made every effort to offer the ODBC fair solutions, the ODBC’s requests remain outside of what the City considers necessary for the public good.
What is eminent domain?
Eminent domain, sometimes referred to as condemnation, is the government’s ability to acquire private property for public use after fair and just compensation to the property owner. This is a tool used by governments when the public good or public exigency requires that the government take this action on behalf of the people. There is an established judicial process in place so that property owners are fairly and adequately compensated for any land acquired by eminent domain.
Has the City Council decided to use the eminent domain tool in this case?
Eminent domain is just one tool in the City’s toolbox of implementation measures. The City Council has called a public hearing to discuss the options for implementing the public infrastructure aspects of the Waterfront Plan, particularly as they pertain to the land at the foot of King Street. No decision has been made yet about what tool the City Council will use to implement the Waterfront Plan.