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.