Old Town

Old Town


‘Towners, we’ve got trouble right here in river city. At least I think we do. And, as you know, your friendly neighborhood columnist is seldom wrong.

It seems our city fathers (and mothers) are going bonkers over assuring that those of us who love this old port city don’t do anything to suggest that Alexandria is not a business friendly city.

The culprits who believe this aren’t your regular nuts who think there might be a conspiracy to build a 40-foot wall around Old Town to keep out (or regulate) anyone who suggests that we’re tough on business, on expansion, on rapid growth. No. The folks I’m talking about are from your (our) Chamber of Commerce, the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership and the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association. Maybe even our own Alexandria Planning Commission.

The Commission the other night voted down a complicated legislative maneuver to control the number of so-called Adult Stores in Old Town. The first opened on King Street earlier this year. A second opened on King only recently. The new store even offers to deliver its merchandise to folks staying at downtown hotels.

Groups such as the Old Town Civic Association and the Historic Alexandria Foundation, among others, were quick to make known their complete disgust that the city sat on its hands when the first Adult Store (don't read Adult Store as "Louis Vuitton." It's not). Now, along has come another on prime King Street property — the city's primary shopping venue in Old Town.

Compounding all of this is that city officials from the organizations mentioned earlier took strong offense that OTCA and HAF would take a position that would suggest our town is not business-friendly. Wow! It's known that the Chamber and the ACVS urged the Planning Commission to kill the amendment to restrict sex shops in Alexandria. The vote was 5-1 to kill. Again, wow! The "no" vote came replete with lectures pummeling those favoring the amendment. Wow, a third time.

Let Poul Hertel, president of OTCA and a vocal opponent of those who some fear are allowing King Street to become a mini-red light district, offer his take after the vote: "I am very disappointed that the representatives of the business district pushed the City into a Faustian bargain that could jeopardize all retailers on King Street. What is more, as if to finish off the Kafkaesque performance of the Planning Commission, one of the commissioners lectured on how important the business communities' turnout has been for the result."

Hertel concluded: "So in the end it was about business is business, was it not? In being so afraid to appear business unfriendly, we now have to be porn-friendly on King Street."

Poul Hertel described the Planning Commission's performance as "Kafkaescue." My description would be "looney tunes."