Alexandria Council Notebook

Alexandria Council Notebook

Divine Retribution

Planning their strategy for Saturday’s marathon public hearing on the Seminary road diet, leaders at the Virginia Theological Seminary weren’t quite sure which approach to take. As they huddled in council chambers, a trinity of administrators debated two options. One was to employ logic and reason, explaining why pedestrian safety was such a concern and how removing two traffic lanes would benefit students and faculty. The other was a bit more radical: divine retribution.

“We’ll start with fire,” joked Ian Markham, dean of the seminary. “Then we’ll move on to lice and finish off with the seven plagues.”

A quick check of the seven plagues revealed that lice is, in fact, one of the seven plagues. So that would be a double dose of the pesky critters for Alexandria. And fire appears in the seven plagues along with wild animals and thunderstorms. So that’s a heck of a lot of fire for a city with only 15 square miles.

Ultimately, though, the Seminary bigwigs decided to go with reason and logic instead of apocalyptic threats. The strategy worked, and a narrow majority of council members agreed to put Seminary road on a diet, slimming it down from four lanes into two and adding bike lanes.

Apocalypse averted. For now.

Gunshy Ordinance

Members of the City Council have had it with the gun debate, and now they are hoping to move forward with a new solution: prohibition. Last weekend, council members unanimously approved an ordinance that “prohibits the carrying of firearms in any city-owned building, park or other property used or owned by the city.”

“Well that’s the street. That’s the sidewalk. That’s effectively a gun ban,” said Parker Gray resident Dino Drudi during Saturday’s public hearing on the ordinance. "You can have a gun if you can get it into your house so long as you keep it in your house.”

The ordinance would not apply to military personnel, law-enforcement officers or private security guards hired by the city. It also carves out a special exemption for “historical re-enactors,” as long as their firearms are “inoperative or otherwise incapable of discharging a projectile.” But that’s only if lawmakers in Richmond agree. Because of a quirk of Virginia politics known as the Dillon Rule, local governments don’t have authority to enact local gun control measures.

“This ordinance is presented in hopeful anticipation of action by the General Assembly on this issue,” explained City Manager Mark Jinks in a memo outlining the proposal.

Rezoning Paradise

Folk singer Joni Mitchell warned about the perils of paving over paradise to put up a parking lot. But here in Alexandria, City Council members are moving in the opposite direction. Last weekend, they approved a plan to pave over an old used car lot and put up a four-story building. It might not be paradise, exactly, but plans call for 6,000 feet of ground floor commercial space and 31 residential units.

“Don’t it always seem to go,” sang Mitchell in the 1970 classic, “that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

Council members knew what they had, and they wanted it gone. The site of a used-car lot on King Street has been incongruous for years, and city officials have long wanted to transform this stretch of the city’s main business corridor into something more modern than outdated surface parking. Back in 2014, council members voted to deny the owner of the used car lot the ability to continue operation.

“After this, I guess we’ll work on those wig shops,” joked Planning Commission Chairman John Komoroske at the time.