Deputy Mayor’s Office Blames Unnamed Federal Agency for Hine Project Delay – Chair Kwame Brown Cites Pressure on Council to Fast Track Hine Project

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:   Go to 7:54:10


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10 responses to “Deputy Mayor’s Office Blames Unnamed Federal Agency for Hine Project Delay – Chair Kwame Brown Cites Pressure on Council to Fast Track Hine Project

  1. Steve

    National Capital Planning Commission is a federal agency.

  2. A process exposed! On its website the National Capital Planning Commission states its function is to: “Encourage new central city mixed-use neighborhoods combining high-density residential, office, retail, cultural, and open space uses in the following areas:
    “1. Mt. Vernon Triangle;
    “2. North of Massachusetts Avenue (NoMA);
    “3. Downtown East;
    “4. South Capitol Street corridor/Stadium area;
    “5. Near Southeast/Navy Yard;
    “6. Center Leg Freeway air rights; and
    “7. Union Station air rights.”.
    “The location of these areas is shown in the Central Washington and Lower Anacostia
    Waterfront/Near Southwest Area Elements. Land use regulations and design standards for these areas
    should ensure that they are developed as attractive pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods, with high-quality
    architecture and public spaces. Housing, including affordable housing, is particularly encouraged and
    should be a vital component of the future land-use mix.”.
    No mention of Capitol Hill/Eastern Market, so, this ‘small group of citizens’ is on a winner!

  3. Kathleen

    Are government officials under an oath, explicitly or implicitly, when they testify before the City Council?

    Follow up: Does anyone seriously believe that Corey Lee can’t remember the name of the agency?

    He’s just one more prince-of-a-guy involved in this Hine debacle. Way to go, city government!! We (the neighbors) chose a nice project, funded internally, with all kinds of amenities already signed on. But you guys know best, and that’s why we LOVE you.

  4. cc

    Hine is a nice project?! It’s hideous, similar to Clarendon and Jenkins Row! It also could be taller, have fewer cub-cuts, and have a larger space for the flea market, but if it were just pretty (it doesn’t even have to be beautiful, though that would be ideal of course), I’d let the height and curb-cut issues go. I’d still fight for the flea market though, because I’d hate to have to get out to U Street or Bethesda to buy all my things…

  5. 13th Street

    Eastern Market, and the flea market particularly, is an integral piece of the fabric that makes living on Capitol Hill fulfilling. There is not a weekend that we don’t make the walk to Eastern Market to peruse and pick up produce. With the threat the Hine project has become to this part of our community, I don’t really give a damn if the thing gets built at all. I’d rather have the empty school and retain the character of the market… Stanton has bastardized the process through backroom dealings, misinformation, outright lies and seeks to kill eastern market as we know it in the name of greed.

  6. Karen Kimball

    About Lee’s quote, “There’s a small group of citizens who are not in favor of the project, but it’s very nominal.” Are we the small group? And please define “not in favor.” If by small group he means most of the surrounding community and those who love the market regardless of their location; if he means we are in favor of responsible development but opposed to what this has become, then I get it. On the off chance that Kwame Brown was unable to pick out those nuances… time to write the council.

  7. Larry,
    Corey Lee is not an employee of the DC Office of Planning. He is a project manager for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED). The Office of Planning and DMPED are two separate agencies. DMPED had its oversight hearing yesterday before Chairman Brown. The discussion you are describing took place at DMPED’s hearing. OP’s development review staff are responsible for reviewing the Hine PUD application for the Zoning Commission. I request that you correct the blog title and references to Corey Lee’s employer to reflect DMPED as soon as possible.

    Thank you,
    Tanya Washington-Stern
    Chief of Staff, DC Office of Planning

  8. Ken

    Given our status as a ward of the Federal government aka the last colony, there are a number of Federal interventions in our planning process. National Capital Planning Commission reviews all zoning-redos (and will review the PUD application) and I believe that the Commission on Fine Arts will review the design since it is on Penn Ave. And the Zoning Commission itself is an independent body with 2 of the 5 members being federal officials. I even remember a case when a Congressman wanted to introduce a bill to overturn a BZA decision he didn’t like.
    Statehood for DC!

  9. Barbara Riehle

    Like so many neighbors, I have been to every single public meeting on Hine, except for one in the spring of 2008, as well as a host of meetings called by the developers. I’ve also met with Corey Lee, with the Office of Planning, and with Councilmember Wells, and never, until Mr. Lee’s testimony in the waning hours of yesterday’s marathon, have I heard anyone — not the developers, not Corey Lee, not Councilmember Wells, not speculating neighbors, not one single person — ever mention the possible incursion of a federal entity into the disposition of Hine.

    Of course, as Ken pointed out, National Capital Planning, possibly the Fine Arts Commission, and the Park Service and Architect of the Capitol, through their designees on the Zoning Commission, will have input in the final project. That’s a given. That’s very different from what Corey Lee said yesterday. Corey Lee seemed to suggest that the project was in some jeapordy because of a possible unnamed federal incursion at the site.

    I plan to write to Corey Lee right now and ask him who this federal nemesis is and why this was never mentioned before. Then, I’m going to ask Tommy Wells the same thing. Throughout this ridiculous process, there has always been a sense that “something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?”

    Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some honesty associated with the Hine project? It certainly would be a welcome change.

  10. Joe

    After many years being a supporter of DC Statehood and a regular contributor to “DC Vote,” I’m now opposed. Cory Lee and Tommy Wells, and seemingly a good number of other DC officials responsible for the approval of a sensible project that fits the character, needs and history of the neighborhood, are either lying or just plain incompetent. We would be better off if the Feds controlled it all.
    As to the number of neighbors opposed, I’ve always been fiercely opposed but have never been asked to sign any petition, so what are they counting? If this is a factor, can’t we go door to door for as many blocks needed to get signatures and then show the Council on an overlay that the majority of the neighborhood is opposed not to the development of Hine, but opposed to THIS VERSION of it.