Virginia Supreme Court dismisses Alexandria waterfront challenge

Plans to improve Alexandria’s waterfront are moving forward despite a legal challenge brought to the Commonwealth’s highest court.

The Virginia Supreme Court dismissed an appeal Friday by three Old Town residents dubbed the “Iron Ladies.”

April Burke, Beth Gibney and Marie Kux argue the city council did not take the legal steps necessary to approve the original passage of the redevelopment plan in 2012.

They say their zoning protest was not processed prior to the 5-2 vote.

However, since the plan passed by a supermajority vote this past March, the high court ruled the case “moot” and said there’s no relief it can provide.

Many residents remain fired up.

At the King Street Art Festival Sunday, it wasn’t just music and shopping on their minds. The debate brewing for decades reached a fever pitch.

“People feel passionately and it’s important that you feel passionately about the place that you live,” said 35-year-resident James Ray.

He knows the controversy all too well, as do his neighbors.

“The waterfront definitely needs to be redeveloped, the only question is how is it going to be redeveloped,” he questioned.

Several Old Town residents were quick to chime in with their suggestions.

“My opinion is to bring in a couple of boutique hotels and a couple of restaurants would be a really nice thing for Old Town,” said Joan Murray.

“I definitely think a few more businesses down there would be beneficial,” agreed new mom Kelly Manion before adding, “but I wouldn’t want it to get too overblown.”

The redevelopment plan calls for more than 500,000 square feet of vacated warehouse space to be converted into two new hotels and businesses. Parks would also crop up.

Opponents refuse to give up quietly. Bert Ely, who co-chairs Friends of the Alexandria Waterfront, said “the game is not over for us.”

He’s disappointed with the state Supreme Court’s decision, but says it won’t silence the critics who fear redevelopment will spell a traffic nightmare and more headaches.

“We’re concerned about development that will have a negative effect on the unique historic character of Old Town and the waterfront area,” he said.

The attorney representing the “Iron Ladies” is looking beyond the setbacks and celebrating the victories in this lingering dispute.

“Citizens are going to be involved in the process and if the city oversteps its bounds, the citizens are going to be there to hold them accountable and I think that’s what this lawsuit and the lawsuits have done,” said Roy Shannon.

Shannon plans on filing an appeal Monday.