FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Amal Mimish, Save McMillan Action Coalition, 202-706-9408, firstname.lastname@example.org
City’s Over-Development of McMillan Park Challenged in Court
Plain Language of Development Rules at Question
Washington, D.C. — The battle over the McMillan development project is now in the DC Court of Appeals, DC’s highest judicial body. In a bold move, McMillan Park supporters have recently asked the Court to take summary action to overturn the DC Zoning Commission’s approval of the District’s proposed mixed use development. Park supporters say the Commission’s decision, on its face, violates the District’s Comprehensive Plan, the basic land-use law for the city.
Specifically, Friends of McMillan Park (FOMP) contends that granting the developer and the city’s request for a “high-density” zone to allow a “115-foot-tall Health Care Facility/Medical Office complex” and over 2 million square feet of development is “inconsistent” with the Comprehensive Plan’s plain language designating the McMillan property for “moderate density” development. Moderate density is characterized as single-family homes, row houses, and some low and mid-rise apartments.
The developers, Vision McMillan Partners (VMP) argue, via their lawyers, Holland & Knight (in this case, paid for by DC taxpayers), that the Comprehensive Plan is “generally not binding” and that, moreover, the door is open to any zoning district the Commission might use because the Plan says that “other districts may apply” in addition to moderate ones. The Deputy Mayor’s Office of Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) agrees with this interpretation and supports the proposed density.
FOMP, however, points out that DC law sates emphatically and unequivocally that zoning “shall not be inconsistent with the comprehensive plan for the national capital” and that “other districts” means districts that are “similar to those specifically” mentioned, i.e., only those consistent with the Comprehensive Plan’s moderate density language.
“It is unconscionable for the Commission to have approved high-rise, dense commercial development for McMillan Park,” said Jim Schulman a local Architect and advocate for adaptive reuse. “If allowed, this development will insert intensive and prosaic K Street-scale development into a low-rise, reviving residential neighborhood with inadequate transportation infrastructure. This could be DC’s Central Park or High Line, a major municipal amenity and tourism destination. If allowed to stand, the zoning decision effectively renders the Comprehensive Plan moot.”
FOMP is asking the Court for summary reversal because the “facts are uncomplicated and undisputed” and it is a “clear-cut issue of law.” If FOMP’s motion is denied, the Court will continue to hear the cases through the normal process of filing briefs and hearing arguments.
In addition to this challenge of the City’s plan at the Court of Appeals, McMillan supporters are still looking for a response from the Bowser administration to findings by the DC Auditor that the McMillan project, “warrant[s] a new competitive process.”
The latest iteration of the McMillan project, a national and local landmark, is fraught with controversies, including:
- the conclusion by the DC Auditor that “new competitive process” should be conducted for the project; http://www.savemcmillan.org/calendar#auditor
- taxpayers paying $78 million in predevelopment costs; http://www.dcfeedback.com/fit2print/citywide/63
- strong public opposition as demonstrated at a recent Council hearing on a five-year extension for the land transfer, and throughout the review process; http://www.savemcmillan.org/opposition
- hiring a public relations firm, Fontaine & Co., to “neutralize [public] opposition” and “provide continuous political cover to local elected officials.” http://www.savemcmillan.org/calendar#fontaine
“The reimagining of obsolete infrastructure such as New York’s High Line, Chicago’s Millennium Park and Seattle’s Gas Works Park proves that lasting economic growth flows from incorporating the bones of a city into its emerging new self…[not]…2 million square feet of mixed-use development better suited for Reston or Tysons Corner.” –Jeffery Anderson, The Washington Post (Sept. 18, 2015)