Richmond council candidates spar over $316,000 alley

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Two Richmond city council candidates are sparring over what's being described as a $316,000 alley.

The "green alley" in question, which puts most other alleys to shame in terms of appearance and functionality, is located behind a single block of St. Christopher's Road. It cost $316,000 according to city budget records.

The alley's cost and location got the attention of Jon Baliles, son of former Gov. Gerald Baliles, who is running for city council.

"If you look at it, it looks like the Taj Mahal of alleys," Baliles said Thursday.

Baliles is running in the 1st district, where Bruce Tyler is the two-term incumbent. Baliles pointed out that the recently completed alley happens to be right behind Tyler's house.

"I'm amazed at how somebody that claims to be the fiscal watchdog of city tax dollars, all of a sudden decides to just watch out for himself," Baliles said, questioning how the location was chosen.

At his office Thursday, just over a month before the election, Tyler called it a cheap shot.

"I think my colleague that's running against me is desperate," Tyler said.

Tyler said the low-lying area had been notorious for bad drainage. He provided nine citizen complaints from neighbors dating back to 2002, and one filed by his wife in 1999. We questioned whether he had any personal involvement in selecting the site.

"I never did. Because I knew one day I'd be sitting in front of a camera talking to a reporter," Tyler said.

Tyler said he only helped set up meetings once the city picked the site independently. Baliles questioned the cost.

"I do support green alleys. I don't support green alleys that cost [$316,000]," Baliles said.

"I know these numbers are not exorbitant numbers," Tyler said later.

The alley - one of four such alleys in Richmond - was funded with city storm water fees. They are modeled after those in other cities, including Chicago, where more than 80 similar alleys have been installed to improve storm drainage.

Richmond's first green alley was unveiled back in 2010. Two of them are located downtown, near the James River. The other was built behind a block of Monument Avenue.

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