ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WUSA9) -- Alexandria city leaders are once again threatening eminent domain against the Old Dominion Boat Club which sits on prime waterfront real estate in Old Town.
"It's not the building, it's the parking lot," explained Mayor Euille at a news conference where he and the both the city's attorney and manager announced that a public hearing would be held to hear whether citizens support the use force to take control of the Club's parking lot.
For 15 years, the city has been trying to negotiate a deal with the ODBC to take control or gain access to its half-acre parking lot which is surrounded by a chain link fence and a gate. Anyone walking along the waterfront path must walk around the parking lot.
"The public should be able to exercise and enjoy the waterfront. I don't think it should be in private hands, frankly. This waterfront is very valuable land, but not for a parking lot," said resident and avid walker John Sader.
City officials' call it the "missing link" in a mile-plus stretch of the waterfront pathway.
"The time to resolve this is now," said Euille, who has changed his previous stance on not pursuing eminent domain. "It just seems like we're never going to get there and after ten years I have had to change my approach and we'll have to do what's in the best interests of the citizens of this great historic city. And the citizens are crying out to us and saying, 'Move on, enough is enough!'"
City officials acknowledge the ODBC's history; it's owned the property since the 1920's. Over the years, the city worked to transform what use to be a warehouse district to the thriving business, entertainment and tourist destination that defines Old Town. But, they say, the parking lot is standing in the way of further progress and the waterfront plan approved by both the City Council and residents.
"As you traverse down King Street, what we want is a adequate and beautiful front door to the millions of dollars of both public and private investment that will be occurring in the waterfront and we want people to have a sense of place and to be able to have access all through this jewel and gem and is in Alexandria and makes us distinctive," said City Manager Rashad M. Young.
Old Dominion Boat Club Members see it differently.
Sean Gallagher said, "They're been trying to force us out incrementally for years. And the idea now, I think, if they take the parking lot then the club will fold... If you lose the lot, it's going to be problematic to sustain operations here at the boat club because how do people get boats in and out of the water?"
City leaders have scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday, November 19th at 6:00 p.m. After Council hears from the public, it may decide whether to pursue eminent domain or not.