By Carla Branch
After years of negotiation and months of court delays, the Alexandria Sanitation Authority has taken ownership of a ten-acre parcel of land adjacent to the facility through imminent domain.
ASA acquired the Hooff’s Run property by filing a certificate of take with the Alexandria Circuit Court and paid the appraised value of $20.4 million to the court on December 29. The Circuit Court will determine the final amount of compensation to be paid by ASA at a trial to be scheduled next year.
Under the action, ASA took immediate title and possession of the land that it will use to expand its current facility to meet new Virginia environmental regulations regarding nutrient removal designed to help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay. The design of the new facility will begin immediately. The acquisition came after years of failed negotiations with the previous owner, Hooff Fagelson Tract LLC.
“ASA took this important action today because any further delay in acquiring the land was not in the best interests of the City of Alexandria, its citizens, and the health of the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay,” said ASA Board Chairman Ed Semonian.
After extensive research, ASA analyzed all the surrounding properties and concluded that only the Hooff Fagelson site met all of its needs and would have the least impact on the surrounding area – both for the present and the future. In March 2008, both the City of Alexandria Planning Commission and City Council voted unanimously to amend the Master Plan to allow for the proposed plant expansion.
“We have to begin the design planning process immediately, as well as apply for special use permits from the City to meet the 2011 deadline. We could do neither unless we had actual title to the land; hence our legal action today,” ASA General Manager Karen Pallansch said.
The Chesapeake Bay Act requires compliance with new environmental regulations regarding the removal of certain nutrients from the bay watershed by 2011.
Bernie Fagelson and three partners acquired the property more than 50 years ago when it was created due to the construction of the Capital Beltway. Much of the property is in a Resource Protection Area and cannot be developed but the remainder is prime land that could be a gateway to Alexandria.
“We have acted and negotiated in good faith throughout and offered the other party a fair price for the land based on appraisals from valuation experts,” said Semonian.
But one of the former property owners, Charles Hooff, disagreed with that statement in an earlier interview. “I had a contract on the property last year for $42.5 million with escalation clauses to $50 million under certain circumstances,” Hooff said.
Pallansch said that further delay is unacceptable. “It would be detrimental to the environmental health of the Bay and the Potomac and to the future growth and economic health of the City of Alexandria,” she concluded.