There's a dispute growing in Alexandria over plans to redevelop the historic waterfront area near the popular Old Town. The controversy is over the impact of more hotels and housing on the Potomac River.
Opponents of the Alexandria City Council's waterfront redevelopment plan are considering bringing a legal challenge if the council moves forward with the proposal.
Council members are expected to finally vote in January on a long-delayed plan that’s been hotly debated for a year. The proposal now under consideration would increase density for three sites slated for redevelopment and overturn the longstanding ban on hotels along the waterfront.
Because the zoning changes apply to only three parcels and not the entire waterfront, opponents say they are ready to file a lawsuit charging that the move constitutes illegal "spot zoning," essentially changing zoning on specific parcels without making a comprehensive change for all similar properties.
Those same opponents last month released their own alternative waterfront plan that keeps the hotel ban, does not rezone the three properties, and advocates for land swaps or acquisitions to create a park along the waterfront.
City attorney James Banks responds that illegal spot zoning is typically seen in cases where governments down-zone properties, an action that decreases value. Because the case in Alexandria would be an up-zoning, making the land more valuable, Banks is not sure what kind of case could be made in court.