DC General Counsel Nails Coffin on Changes to Hine Development

DC General Counsel Nails Coffin on Changes to Hine Development

by Larry Janezich

The DC General Counsel has found that there is no reason at present to go back to the drawing board on the Hine project.

At a contentious community meeting last May 23, Councilmember Tommy Wells, under pressure from the community,  pledged to ask the DC General Counsel for a legal opinion on whether Stanton-Eastbanc’s expansion of the Hine project beyond what the city initially approved constitutes a violation of the contract with the city which would trigger a rebid of the contract.   The councilmember agreed to do so and to post the opinion on his website.

ANC6B candidate Jerry Sroufe, who is running against current Commissioner Ivan Frishberg for the ANC6B02 seat which includes the Hine project, obtained a copy of the General Counsel’s 14 page opinion and shared it with Capitol Hill Corner.  Sroufe testified before the Zoning Commission against greater height and density for the project.

The “Short Answer” provided by the General Counsel states:  “Neither statutory law, the land disposition and development agreement, nor the zoning regulations provide for a rebid due to changes in design or construction.  Rather the District’s legal framework for land development anticipates changes and provides procedures for changes to be approved or disapproved throughout the development process.

Firstly, the Mayor is required to transmit to the Council for approval any substantive change made in a term sheet after the Council’s initial approval of a development.  To date, no substantive change has been transmitted and, based on available documents, no change has been made to the term sheet.

Secondly, under the agreement between the District and the developer for the Hine site, material changes require approval of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Planning and Development, the Mayor’s delegate; non-material changes do not require approval.

Thirdly, pursuant to its statutory powers, the Zoning Commission, which must approve a planned unit development, has the authority to grant or deny requests for relief from the requirements of its zoning regulations.

Termination of the agreement, by either party, would end the current developer’s development of the project.  Only then might a rebid be necessary.”

City agencies, including the Deputy Mayor’s Office for Planning and Economic Development, the Office of Planning, the Historic Preservation Review Board, and the Zoning Commission have all lined up in support of the project which is the largest commercial development ever undertaken in the Capitol Hill Historic District.  The proposed development generated considerable opposition from nearby neighbors and others who were concerned about the impact of the project on the quality of life in the neighborhood.  It is also fair to say that much of the neighborhood would have preferred a rival bid for the Hine development, one that was smaller, more attractive in the eyes of many, and better-funded.  Since the term sheet has been signed, Stanton/Eastbanc has compiled a laundry list of disappointments for the community:  lost tenants and amenities, including a neighborhood hotel; lost space for the weekend flea market; and greater height and density in the overall project.

The text of the full document, which constitutes a comprehensive review and discussion of the legal steps in the commercial development of city property, can be found in a separate page under the “Pages” directory on the lower right of the CHC homepage, or by clicking the link at the top of the page.

Correction:  The document also appears on Councilmember Wells’ website here:  http://www.tommywells.org/2012/09/posting-of-requ.php.

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