ANC6B Supports One Year Extension For Transfer Of Hine Site to Stanton/Eastbanc
City Council Will Likely Follow Suit Today
by Larry Janezich
Last night, ANC6B voted to support emergency legislation to provide a one year extension for transfer of the Hine site to Stanton/Eastbanc (SEB). The current deadline for the transfer is Saturday, July 13, 2013.
ANC 6B’s letter to Councilmembers states that two issues make this delay necessary: first, a discrepancy between the plat used for the development plans and the plat held by the Surveyor for the District which results in one foot of the main building’s south façade encroaching on public space; second, an appeal to the DC Court of Appeals of the Zoning Commission ruling filed by neighbors, which the developer and the ANC contend has delayed financing for the project.
The letter states that while the city and developers are pursuing alternate route to the settlement that will allow the development process to continue, the project cannot fully move forward until the court appeal is resolved. The court has set a hearing for mid-September, but it could be several months after that before it issues a ruling.
The Commission voted 8 – 0 for the letter of support. The City Council will meet in legislative session today to consider a long series of bills, and the Hine legislation to provide the extension is on the agenda.
Prior to taking action, the ANC invited the parties in the issue of the appeal – the attorney for the neighbors, the attorney for Stanton/Eastbanc, and the Deputy Mayor’s project manager for the development to outline the issues from their perspectives.
Attorney Oliver Hall, representing 13 petitioners as litigants and the neighborhood organization EMMCA as an “intervener,” began by stating that the petitioners do not oppose the redevelopment of the Hine site but support a development compatible with the scale and character of the existing neighborhood. He made a case that the Zoning Commission had failed to perform oversight, specifically failing to consider whether the benefits and amenities credited to the developer – including affordable housing and reopening of C Street – should be recast since much of the funding will come from taxpayers; failing to consider whether these above public amenities offset the impact of the development on the neighborhood; failing to make any finding of fact justifying the change in zoning; and failing to comply with the spirit and intent of inclusionary zoning regulations regarding the affordable housing component.
Some commissioners treated Hall dismissively, a fact not lost on one of the litigants who later raised the issue when the Chair asked for comment from the community. That neighbor castigated Acting Chair Ivan Frishberg for reacting with mock incredulity to one of Hall’s assertions regarding the cost to taxpayers of reopening and privatizing C Street. Frishberg had followed that demonstration with an apology. Less contrite, however, were Commissioners Oldenburg and Garrison who openly scoffed at Hall’s presentation. Oldenburg challenged Hall, noting the commission has been reviewing this for the past five years and “that all these issues have been brought up and discussed.” “Who are you?” she demanded of Hall.
Anthony Lanier, head of Eastbanc followed Hall, supporting the extension because of the plat issue and the litigation. Asked about the financial impact of the delay, he cited the potential increased cost of funds and opportunity costs on investments so far, the concern that lenders can change their opinion of a project when there is uncertainty about the time frame of the project, and the loss of jobs and tax revenue that ensue from any delay. He professed confidence that the plat issue could be resolved in 3 – 4 months and a new settlement procedure could be reached in no more than 30 days.
Cory Lee, the Deputy Mayor’s project manager for Hine, said that a one year extension was necessary to protect both the developer and the city, assuring the ANC that protections built into the contract provide for reversion of the site to DMPED in case of failure of the developer to meet contractual obligations.
Questioned by Commissioner Garrison as to whether DMPED was pressing hard enough to push the project, Lee replied that circumstances were much different now and that earlier there was a “lot of benefit to transfer the land to the developer.” He noted that things outside the developer’s control have slowed project and said that “given the circumstances the last thing Mayor wants to have happen to be in the position of explaining why the administration transferred an asset.” While somewhat opaque, Lee seemed to be suggesting that DMPED would only transfer Hine once the office attained greater peace of mind regarding the future viability of the project.