McMillan Park Supporters Object to Denial of Appeal Concerning Illegally Issued Demolition Permit
At-Large Council Candidates Support Altering Controversial Redevelopment Plan
DC’s Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) unanimously denied the appeal of the demolition permit at McMillan Park. Park supporters maintain the permit was issued illegally because DCRA (1) failed to consider the existing historic preservation covenants – permanent restrictions that run with the land deed as purchased by DC from the Federal government; and (2) did not provide a legally required second-stage zoning review of the proposed McMillan redevelopment plan.
During the September 16 meeting, BZA Chairman Frederick Hill concluded that the preservation covenants “had no merit” and that the second stage review “was not necessary.” https://youtu.be/j7vBiknjCu0?t=2608
McMillan Park, located at North Capitol Street NW, and Michigan Avenue NW, is a locally protected and nationally recognized historic landmark on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places. The 25-acre tract was landscaped as a park by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., with a subterranean water filtration system of groin-vaulted cisterns.
As proposed, the McMillan redevelopment plan calls for constructing 2+ million square feet of trophy offices, condos, retail, and a recreation center that legally requires a second-stage review by the Zoning Commission as a “planned unit development.”
Thirteen candidates* for the At-Large Council Race have stated in one form or another that the current McMillan redevelopment project should:
· Be defunded, so the $75 million allocated in DC’s budget to demolish the park can be shifted to more pressing needs during the ongoing pandemic;
· Be reset for its lack of competitive bidding (as documented by the DC auditor), a limited amount of affordable housing units, and DC’s virtual giveaway of public land to developers;
· Retain at least 50% of open green space (matching the Sierra Club’s 2012 position).
Fortunately for park advocates, even with BZA’s denial, demolition cannot begin because the DC Court of Appeals halted all construction activities at McMillan Park earlier this year. That ruling remains in effect. Park supporters now await BZA's written decision and will petition the DC Court of Appeals to review it.
“The BZA's behavior is embarrassing to our city and the plain letter of the law,” said Chris Otten, a Save McMillan Park advocate who attended the BZA hearings. “The purposeful obfuscation of our claims — and the outright ignoring of facts that we plainly presented to them — gives BZA Commissioners the cover to arbitrarily deny our appeal.”
The BZA heard the McMillan Park case on August 5, 2020 that the permits to demolish McMillan Park and begin construction activities were illegally issued by the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). https://youtu.be/zKrtNx0iTJw?t=20222
Park supporters also said the Zoning Administrator had failed to ensure that the existing McMillan deed historic preservation covenants were included in any new McMillan property agreements.
*These candidates are:
Markus Batchelor, Mario Cristaldo, Franklin Garcia, Janeese Lewis George, Kathy Henderson, Ed Lazere, Jeanné Lewis, Will Merrifield, Vincent Orange, Mónica Palacio, Marya Pickering, Keith Silver, Ann Wilcox