Letter to the Alexandria City mayor, deputy mayor an city council
To the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and City Council and the Members of the Planning Commission City of Alexandria, Virginia
SUP 2018-0056 and SUP 2018-0118
Ladies and gentlemen:
I am writing on behalf of Waterford Place HOA, a neighborhood consisting of 36 residences one block from the restaurants proposed in the subject SUPs. We ask that the Planning Commission and Council amend the conditions in approving these restaurants, and detail below our concerns.
1. We object to the modification of the seating maximums under SUP 2018-0056, from the current maximum seating of 135 seats inside and 116 seats outside (total 251). At the time of the original approval of the project DSUP, the neighborhood rightly objected to (among other things) a reduction in required on-site parking for the retail and restaurant space in this project. Increasing the number of seats at this stage violates the agreements among the neighborhood, the city and the developer, which included substantial concessions by all parties. The applicant has offered no concession to the city and neighborhood in exchange for this increase, which will place even a greater stress on the neighborhood.
Moreover, we strenuously object to consolidation of the seat maximum to a single total figure, which appears to be the staff’s recommendation on page 9 of the staff report. The original approval in DSUP 2014-0006 purposefully set separate maximums for indoor seats and outdoor seats. During the hearings for DSUP 2014-0006, the developer specifically represented that the restaurant would not fill both the indoor and outdoor seating at the same time, and this representation was a basis for reducing the parking requirement. By consolidating the maximum number of seats, the city is permitting the restaurant to move seats and thus violate a key condition and representation in the approval process. By having a single maximum seating limitation, the city is permitting the applicant to substantially increase the effective maximum number of seats. (For example, the applicant may have 251 seats all inside in the winter and all outside in the summer, subject to fire code restrictions.) Further, by approving a single maximum number of seats, the city invalidates the formulas for parking which, in part, have differing requirements based on whether seating is inside or outside. (Zoning Ordinance Section 8-200 provides “For portions of a restaurant devoted to outdoor dining, the area occupied by the first 20 outdoor seats shall be exempt from the parking requirement.”)
2. We strenuously object to the pier restaurant in SUP 2018-0118, as proposed. We find that the contemplated seating arrangement, cooking facilities and hours of operation do not comport with the vision of a publicly accessible and family oriented, active waterfront.
Specifically, the applicant proposes an enclosed (though open air) restaurant space that will exclude the public from half of the pier, which is supposed to be a public amenity permitting access to the waterfront. This was contemplated by the original agreements with the federal government setting forth the uses for the waterfront. Unlike a similar facility at the Torpedo Factory, renderings show that seating is not open to the public, but rather closed off and exclusive. As noted in the staff report, “since portions of the pier will be publicly accessible before being conveyed to the City and because the pier will eventually become a public amenity, its perception as being openly accessible is of chief importance.”
Last, and most concerning, the hours of operation are to midnight on weeknights, 11 pm on Sunday and 1 am on Friday and Saturday. We are alarmed that city staff (page 8 of the Staff Report) would state that those hours are “quite modest” in “comparison to other eating and drinking establishments on the vicinity”. They are in fact consistent with the hours of the local bars/pubs, not restaurants. Given the limited food options (it will be serviced by an Airstream trailer and “feature a light fare of traditional American and seafood”) and it’s seating arrangements (104 of the 232 seats are bar and lounge seating), we can only conclude that the applicant contemplates a bar on our waterfront. Our neighborhood already has a number of pub style establishments (the closest are 2 blocks away) and they present a particular set of challenges, including noise and rowdiness on our streets late into the night. We note that the local parks close at 10 pm, consistent with the whole vision for the waterfront. Our neighborhood is a diverse family oriented place; we do NOT want more bars at our doorstep.
Accordingly, we request that the City require the applicant to (1) provide open accessible seating to all, not just restaurant customers, perhaps by reducing the number of seats and removing barriers to access, and (2) reduce the hours of operation to no later than 10 pm seven days a week.
3. We are quite concerned that the city and the developer of the property have plans that are contrary to the Waterfront Plan’s vision. We hear that another SUP for the current 2 Duke Street property also requests approval for a restaurant. If these SUPs are approved as well, ALL of the space contemplated as retail/restaurant at Robinson Landing will be dedicated to restaurants and bars. This is not at all consistent with the vision in the Waterfront Plan for a diverse set of uses. And it is certainly inconsistent with the vision for the property in the original DSUP (DSUP 2014-0006 page 34, “the applicant has not yet identified a tenant for either of the retail spaces, but envisions specialty retail uses, such as a small gourmet market at 2 Duke Street, and comparable tenants within the retail space in Building 2.”) Most importantly, it is wholly inconsistent with our vision for our neighborhood. The traffic, noise, and parking impacts of a whole new block of restaurants are not acceptable.
Timothy G Morgan, President
Waterford Place Homeowners Association
319 S Union St Alexandria, VA 22314 firstname.lastname@example.org