Capitol Hill Residents Appeal to Wells on Hine Project
Court of Appeals Sets Hearing Date
by Larry Janezich
A group of Capitol Hill residents who are appealing the decision of the Zoning Commission on the Hine project has written to Councilmember Wells to urge him to support their efforts for reconsideration of the PUD order by the Commission. A copy of the letter to Wells is below.
Oral argument before the DC Court of Appeals on the resident’s appeal has been scheduled for September 26th at 9:30am in Courtroom 1 of the DC Court of Appeals, 430 E Street, NW.
August 9, 2013
VIA EMAIL AND FIRST CLASS MAIL
Councilmember Tommy Wells
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 402
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Councilmember Wells:
We are a group of Ward 6 residents who write in response to your recently stated support for the Planned Unit Development (“PUD”) that the developer Stanton-EastBanc, LLC proposes to build on public property where the former Hine Junior High School is located. We have serious concerns about several aspects of this deal, not least of which is the lack of transparency regarding its basic terms. Many people have no idea, for example, that the District will convey ownership or control of this valuable public property to Stanton-EastBanc at a sharply discounted price, or that District taxpayers will pay for many of the “public benefits” Stanton-EastBanc claims its PUD will provide. The PUD also appears to violate key provisions of the District’s zoning regulations and Comprehensive Plan, which are intended to ensure that new developments are compatible with existing neighborhoods, and that the District remains affordable to all residents – not just the wealthy.
Because the PUD will be located in the heart of the Capitol Hill Historic District, we are particularly concerned about its excessive size and height, and the negative impact it will have on the historic character of our community. The PUD will top out at seven stories and 94.5 feet – more than twice the height of the historic rowhouses and other buildings surrounding it – and will tower over everything in the vicinity. Remarkably, however, the Zoning Commission approved Stanton-EastBanc’s PUD without even addressing this extreme disparity in height, despite the Comprehensive Plan’s express requirement that developments in historic districts “shall be consistent with the height and density of contributing buildings in the district.” 10 DCMR § 1011.11. We are therefore raising our concerns in an appeal to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
The Court has not yet decided whether the PUD complies with District of Columbia law, but the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (“DMPED”) is nevertheless pressing ahead in its deal with Stanton-EastBanc. In July, DMPED reportedly transferred the Hine School property to Stanton-EastBanc by means of a hastily-executed lease and sale agreement that was not subject to public review. As your constituents, hundreds of whom wrote letters or signed petitions in opposition to this ill-conceived PUD, we therefore ask that you reconsider your support for it, based on the following:
(The facts included herein may be verified by reference to materials in the public record of Proposed Resolution 18-963, the “Hine Junior High School Disposition Approval Resolution of 2010,” which are available online through the Council’s Legislative Information Management System.)
1. The 2010 tax-assessed value of the Hine School property was $44,672,920, but DMPED agreed to sell the “North Parcel” to Stanton-EastBanc for only $800,000, and granted the “South Parcel” to Stanton-EastBanc under a 99-year lease for only $21 million – a sharp discount even before the Zoning Commission upzoned the property to allow Stanton-EastBanc’s PUD to be more than twice the height and density currently allowed;
2. District taxpayers – not Stanton-EastBanc – will pay for demolition of the Hine School, including asbestos abatement and other environmental remediation, and for construction of the 700 block of C Street, even though Stanton-EastBanc will own this formerly public street;
3. Because the PUD has been exempted from the Inclusionary Zoning regulations, District taxpayers also will pay for the affordable housing units in the PUD, which Stanton-EastBanc otherwise would be required by law to provide, see 11 DCMR § 2600 et seq.;
4. The affordable housing units, most of which are intended for District seniors, will expire after 40 years, in violation of the requirement that they be set aside “for so long as the project exists,” 11 DCMR § 2602.7(b), and the Comprehensive Plan policy of increasing the amount of affordable housing for “current and future residents,” 11 DCMR § 2600.1 (emphasis added);
5. The affordable housing units will be significantly smaller than the market rate units, and will be segregated in the North Building, without access to the “luxury” amenities in the South Building, in violation of the Inclusionary Zoning regulations’ purpose of “ensuring the benefits of economic integration for the residents of the District,” 11 DCMR §2600.3(e), as well as Comprehensive Plan policies intended to promote an “inclusive city,” 10 DCMR §§ 100, 500.3, 500.14.
We believe the foregoing facts demonstrate that this oversized PUD will not only cause permanent damage to the unique character of the Capitol Hill Historic District, but also that it represents a gross waste of taxpayer assets. The District is transferring ownership or control of the Hine School property to Stanton-EastBanc for a fraction of its fair market value, and District taxpayers are further subsidizing the PUD by paying for “public benefits” that Stanton-EastBanc is required by law to provide. Councilmember Wells, we have always supported redevelopment of this property in a reasonable manner that will enhance the Eastern Market neighborhood, rather than destroying the qualities that make it a beloved attraction throughout the District, and for visitors nationwide. Will you not investigate the foregoing facts, and join us in our effort? If you still support Stanton-EastBanc’s PUD, however, please respond to this letter by explaining why you believe this seven-story, 94.5-foot PUD is appropriate in an historic district currently zoned for building less than half that height, and why the taxpayer subsidies identified herein are justified. In view of your mayoral candidacy, the voting public deserves to know where you stand on such matters.
We recognize that your position as a Councilmember is a demanding one, but due to the urgency of this matter, we respectfully ask that you respond to this letter within two weeks, by August 23, 2013. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Petitioners, Howell, et al. v. D.C. Zoning
Comm’n., No. 11-AA-366-378