Hine Coalition Requests Expedited Procedures in Final Court Review of Hine Project
Litigants Cite Recent Court Decision Faulting Sloppy Zoning Commission Review
By Larry Janezich
Last Friday, Oliver Hall, the attorney for the Hine Coalition, filed a response to a Stanton/Eastbanc (SEB) request for expedited resolution of the Hine Coalition’s appeal of a recent Appeals Court decision ratifying the Zoning Commission (ZC) approval of the Hine Development. Hall’s response said the Coalition and Intervenor EMMCA not only had no objection to expedited resolution, but that they also seek expedited resolution of the appeal. (ed. note: phrase in italics has been corrected to reflect language of the response.)
Hall cited a Court decision just one week before SEB filed a request for expedited consideration in the Hine appeal. It that decision, the Court slammed ZC procedures and remanded the controversial 901 Monroe Brookland project to the ZC to justify its support of the project. Opponents of the Brookland project had asked the Court to overturn the ZC’s approval which opponents said was too big for Brookland and too dense for the community. The Court decision came with a reprimand to the ZC for failure to act as factfinder – “to neutrally find the facts, then apply the appropriate law and thus determine the outcome.”
According to the Washington Business Journal, the ZC has never rejected a PUD. The Court’s critique of the ZC’s standard operating procedure on PUD’s sets a precedent for the agency’s accountability – which the Commission has long been accustomed to operating without.
At the heart of the Court’s criticism was the ZC’s verbatim adoption of the Brookland developer’s proposed findings of fact in response to the Brookland litigant’s appeal of the ZC’s decision. The Court opined that the procedure “raises serious concerns as to whether the Commission order actually reflects a considered judgment by the Commission as to the arguments of the parties.”
Hall says in his filing that the ZC relied on the developer’s report in the Hine development in a similar manner, pointing out the ZC’s verbatim adoption of “paragraph after paragraph and page after page of SEB’s proposed findings.” When raised as an issue in the initial appeal, Hall says the Court treated the ZC reliance on SEB’s proposed findings as a non-issue. The filing goes on to point out specific instances where the ZC failed to explain its reasons for approving the Hine PUD’s height and density.
Two of the partners in the Brookland project (200 apartments and 13,000 square feet of retail, two blocks from the Brookland-CUA Metro) will be familiar to the long time followers of the Hine project: the Menkiti Group (one of the finalists in the Hine development selection) and Esocoff & Associates, an architectural firm and one of SEB’s partners in the Hine development.
The Zoning Commission is the curious “independent, quasi-judicial” body which makes decisions every month affecting the quality of life in DC’s neighborhoods. Three members are DC residents appointed by the Mayor. One member is a representative of the Architect of the Capitol. One member is a representative of the National Park Service.
Here is a list of the current ZC Members and excerpts from their public profiles from the ZC website.
Chair, Anthony J. Hood
Chief of the Printing and Mail Management Section, Facilities Operations Branch, of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, DC; Member, Board of Directors of the Bryant Park Homeowners Association; Member, 5th District’s Citizens Advisory Council, Member Bryant Channing Streets, Orange Hat Patrol; Deacon, Greater First Baptist Church of Washington, DC.
Vice Chair, Marcie Cohen
Retired from (unspecified) public and private sectors; recipient of Loeb Fellowship at Harvard Graduate School of Design; former Visiting Senior Scholar, Great Cites Institute, University of Illinois; former Vice Chair of DC Housing Authority; former Board Member, National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Former Deputy Director of the Mayor’s Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs; former Legislative Counsel to the DC Council Chairman; Member, National Capital Planning Commission.
Michael G. Turnbull, FAIA – Architect of the Capitol Designee
Assistant Architect of the Capitol; former Director of the Department of Design and Construction at the Art Institute of Chicago; Member, American Planning Association.
Peter G. May – National Park Service Designee
Associate Regional Director for Lands, Resources, and Planning with the National Capital Region of NPS; former project administrator, Architect of the Capitol; former Deputy Director of Operations in the District of Columbia’s Office of Property Management; former architect with Weinstein Associates Architects (no relation to Amy Weinstein) and Quinn Evans | Architects; Board Member Capitol Hill Community Foundation; former member of District of Columbia Public Schools Modernization Advisory Board and Committee of 21.