Circuit Court Favors City, Restaurant in Wales Alley Case

Dismissal allows Virtue Feed & Grain to proceed with building a deck in the alley, if it desires.

The Alexandria Circuit Court has dismissed the Old Dominion Boat Club’s dispute over Wales Alley, allowing Virtue Feed & Grain to lease and expand the area for outdoor dining.

“We are certainly disappointed in the Circuit Court’s dismissal of this case,” said Miles Holtzman, president of the Old Dominion Boat Club. “It is distressing that a court—any court—would allow a government to take private property and allow it to be used by another private owner.”

Mayor Bill Euille praised the ruling for "providing clarity of property rights for the site for the city to do as it sees fit. ...The court says the alley belongs to the City of Alexandria. 

"It's time to put these things behind us and move forward on the future of the waterfront redevelopment," he added.

He told Patch that the ruling provides "relief for all parties" and it enables adjacent properties to "move forward on matters of mutual interest."

The court's ruling finds (PDF) that the "ODBC's interest in Wales Alley was dedicated to the City and that interest has been accepted by the City of Alexandria. Therefore, the City has the authority to, inter alia, 'lay out, open, extend, widen, narrow...or close..' the alleys of the City."

Deputy City Attorney Chris Spera said the case was typical of many cases facing older cities such as Richmond and Williamsburg where easements and parceling out of land dates back to the 1700s and there's often nothing in a chain of title outlining ownership of specific alleys and roadways.

The restaurant's owners had sought to build a deck for dining that would encroach into the alley way and narrow its surface to 15 feet wide. However, the city advised the restaurant while the case was pending to offer temporary outdoor dining that would not be set up prior to 11 a.m. when boats might be using the alley.

Virtue Feed & Grain will not need to get a new special use permit should it choose to complete its original business plan, but it would need a building permit, said Spera.

Virginia's Supreme Court ruled in May on portions of the case, but sent the decision over the easement's ownership back to the circuit court.

Edgar Warfield October 17, 2012 at 02:42 PM
As Ms. Moore and Mr. Rosenbaum have wisely pointed out, this whole thing is really something of an academic exercise: how often do boats go down Wales Alley? Assuming boats ever actually do use the alley and that Virtue's small deck will impede their passage, why can't those boats simply go south 150 feet or so to Prince Street, and turn towards the waterfront there? Ol' Edgar is no sailor, but it seems to me in each case, a boat would have to make the same number of turns to get to the waterfront -- and Prince is wider anyway (even before the proposed deck), and therefore easier to "navigate" with those turns. Given these readily observable facts, it seems, in this ol' Democrat's opinion, that the point of this whole thing was for some folks to exercise their vitriol against the City and stand firm against any change on the waterfront -- even a modest and creative new use of an old building. Hopefully now that they have exercised sufficient vitriol, sufficiently filled their lawyers' pockets, and taught the rest of us some sort of lesson in eminent domain/easement/whatever, this can be put to rest. Of course, I stand to be factually corrected by some maritime person who can explain to me why boats can ONLY go down Wales Alley and not use any other approach to the marina. Regards, & c., E. Warfield
DSC October 17, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Bob, have you been in your house since 1890?...why don't you MOVE...after your gone private developers will build something on your FORMER lot and make $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
paul October 17, 2012 at 07:00 PM
DCS, The Boat Club has not been at the foot of King Street since 1890. They were first up a couple of blocks on King Street on an upper floor. It was more or less a meeting place for boating enthusiasts and their new club members. Later they moved down by the foot of Duke Street and had their club house there.. In the early 1920's they bought the old ferry boat company at the foot of King Street. A short time later it burt down and they built what you see now. What is now the parking lot next to them was a smaller piece of land. They bought it in about 1935. Threw the years they added fill into the river and created what is now a parking lot. This was done into part of the river owned by Washington DC which is one of the reasons they had problems with title to that property.
doug redman October 17, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Kim...great question. We have lived here for 19 years and have never seen a boat in the alley or being towed through the alley. My guess is that this is about pride and winning.
oldtowner October 17, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Yes, Paul....interesting that many of the opponents to the waterfront plan, who talk about "accessibility" and more open space...having the waterfront available to all....also side with the ODBC....which is sure not open/accessible to all. And that parking lot is so ugly. I've had out of town visitors who can't believe that is down on our waterfront. Has Andrew Macdonald weighted in on this? Since is he such a proponent of a "waterfront for all?"


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