Deputy Mayor’s Office Blames Unnamed Federal Agency for Hine Project Delay -Chair Kwame Brown Cites Pressure on Council to Fast Track Hine Project
by Larry Janezich
Yesterday, Corey Lee, Hine Project Manager for the Office of Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, was asked by Kwame Brown, Chair of the City Council’s Committee on the Whole, to explain why little on the project had happened since Council rushed to approve it in 2010. Lee offered that this project is “pretty complex” and claimed that delay was related to having to “figure out what other federal entities who have tried to reach in and whether they had any jurisdiction over the project.” Lee said, the agency in question “is slipping my mind right now.” He went on to explain that it was “really a question of oversight with respect to design, and whether another agency would have input and how that would – and how that would impact the townhouses….”
This is the first time that the specter of a federal agency inserting itself into the Hine design process has come to the attention of the neighborhood and community organizations following the development of the Hine project. It has been clear that the City Council has expedited approval of the project. As Brown characterized the imperative; “we’ve got to move this right now, the whole world was going to fall apart if we don’t move the surplus and disposition.”
Recently, it has also been clear that Office of Planning has been pushing the project through the PUD process. Last week, the Zoning Commission heard the Office of Planning agree that Stanton/Eastbanc’s Planned Unit Development (PUD) application on the Hine Project was “unsettled” and perhaps not quite ready for a final hearing before the Zoning Commission. None the less, the Office of Planning recommended that the project be moved forward to a final hearing, based on assurances in an “animated discussion with the developer” that the project would be ready for that hearing when it was scheduled.
Brown’s questions were framed in the context of the Council being told that the deal would fall apart, unless the project were approved without delay, and yet little had happened since council approval. Yesterday, Brown was told that the reason the City Council had to fast track approval of the Hine Project in 2010; the developer, Stanton/Eastbanc, refused to commit $3 million on design work for the project until the Council had approved it.
Excerpts from the hearing appear below.
Committee of the Whole Hearing today, Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 7:55:00 in the hearing tape, Kwame Brown asks Corey Lee about Hine status:
Lee: Right now the Hines [sic] Jr HS project has recently been set down for zoning hearing for PUD. We have gone through a pretty intensive community engagement process over the past 12 months or so. Gone before HPRB. There’s a small group of citizens who are not in favor of the project, but it’s very nominal. At this point we are looking forward to a great project.
KB: What happens now? I mean, the reason I ask the question is because what we received from the committee is that we got this, we’ve got to move this right now, the whole world was going to fall apart if we don’t move the surplus and disposition and then when we move it, it just stops. Right? Like, nothing kind of happens. Where are we now because the world was going to fall apart a little while ago?
Lee: “Well, I’m not familiar with the world falling apart…
KB: I mean in terms of it had to hurry up and get out of the Council, if it didn’t then the whole deal was going to fall apart. So we did that a little while ago and I’m just like OK….?
Lee: It’s a pretty complex project, so it takes quite a bit of time as opposed to some of the smaller projects that you’ve mentioned today. This is a project that we’ve had to figure out what other Federal entitites that have tried to reach in and whether they’ve had any kind of jurisdiction over the project.
KB: Over the Hine school?
Lee: That is correct. Because it is a former school site.
KB: What part would the Feds have? I mean…
Lee: Well, we had to make that argument through working with OP, working with HPRB (Historic Preservation Review Board), to insure that just based on the location and the ownership structure, and also with Hine being in that historic overlay along Pennsylvania Avenue, whether or not somebody else would have the ability to reach in. I’m actually…the name of the agency is slipping my mind right now.
KB: The reason I asked that question is because when the world was falling apart and I had hurry up and move it, all that had been taken care of. They told me everything was taken care of, it was ready to go. And now and I’m like, well I thought, a lot of that had been settled, because why would we surplus or disposition something that we don’t even know if we can surplus and disposition because it might not even be ours.
Lee: It wasn’t a question of surplus or disposition, it was oversight with respect to design. Whether another agency would have…how that would affect the timeline.
KB: So this was more about the design.
Senthil Sankaran (Director of Development) interjected here: Correct. What you heard Corey indicate all came out through the design and development process by which the developer has refined his design over the last year since the approval of the surplus disposition.
KB: Two years, almost two years. It’s almost two years.
Senthil Sankaran: Sorry, almost two years. They are on schedule per the LDA that was negotiated in which they were recently set down by the Zoning Commission for their PUD hearing. PUD, depending on the workload of the commission, could be six to twelve months. After which they’ll be able to achieve a financial settlement and a groundbreaking by [crosstalk]…July 20, 2013 is their groundbreaking, which will keep it within the terms of the disposition agreement.
KB: So that’s on schedule. Was that part of the “Moving Projects Forward?” [crosstalk discussion of why Hine was not included in list of projects going to groundbreaking in 2012] …. Mr. Jackson just told me the developer wouldn’t pay the money until the Council approved it. So that’s why we had to approve it, so the developer could spend on the design work the $3 million dollars. So, I got the answer to that.
View the hearing video here: http://dc.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=4&clip_id=1086 Go to 7:54:10