Adopted Minutes - September 27, 2010

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B

 

The meeting began at about 7:10 p.m.It was held at the 4th District MPD Community Room, 6001 Georgia Avenue, NW, Vice Chair Faith Wheeler (also ANC 4B02) presiding.

 

Also present were Commissioners 4B01 Sara Green, 4B03 Monique Michelle Smith, 4B04 James Sydnor, 4B05 Brenda Speaks, 4B06 Idriys Abdullah, and 4B07 Judi Jones. A quorum was present for all votes.

 

Actions

1. In a unanimous 6-0-0 show-of-hands vote following a motion from Commissioner Sydnor, the agenda was adopted without change.

 

2. In a 5-0-1 roll-call vote following an initial motion from Commissioner Wheeler, the Commission adopted Commissioner Green's substitute motion. The adopted motion makes several recommendations to the Walter Reed Local Redevelopment Authority (Walter Reed LRA) Committee.Commissioners Green, Wheeler, Smith, Sydnor and Speaks voted "yes."Commissioner Abdullah abstained.

 

The adopted resolution:

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B requests that the Walter Reed Local Redevelopment Authority Committee:

 

††† 1). extend the deadline for deliberation of its recommendation plan to give the community an opportunity to further understand the proposed plan.

 

††† 2)increase the amount of green space on Georgia Avenue.

 

††† 3)provide more detail in the plan about transportation access and the massing of buildings.

 

The vote followed a presentation from Walter Reed LRA Committee Staff Members Eric Jenkins and Andres Losada and a question and answer period.

 

The District of Columbia is tentatively slated to purchase about 63 acres, or about half of the site, but that is not final, and the Committees's recommendations are to the Army, which can accept or reject them, Mr. Jenkins said.

Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Losada said the goals are to create an exciting space, open up the site, integrate it into its surrounding neighborhoods, activate Georgia Avenue with more retail, and design buildings that complement the site and the neighborhood.

 

There is a challenge in designing around the existing historic buildings. Also, work remains on the transportation access component of the plan.A Georgia Avenue streetcar route could connect the site to the Takoma Metro Station.The main east to west access from 16th Street to Georgia Avenue would be Dahlia, Butternut and Aspen Streets, NW.Butternut Street already handles a great deal of Walter Reed traffic and development from the new proposal would not increase the volume, the planners said in response to a residentís concern.

 

The recommendations do not identify specific uses, but are limited to identifying sites slated for retail (9 percent), residential (32 percent), office (4 percent), education (10 percent), arts and recreation (5 percent) and institutional (37 percent). About 65 percent of the space would be open. No decisions have been made about the amount of affordable housing.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Some ideas that have emerged include making the gym on the DC portion of the site and the auditorium in Building 41 available to the public. The fire station proposed several years ago is still being considered, but the

proposed site is the now-vacant residential building at the corner of Butternut and Georgia (east side).There are two large retail sites on the west side of Georgia Avenue, including one that is about 30,000 square feet.

 

Georgia Avenue Residents Ellen McBarnette and Alpha McPherson said they are part of a larger group who oppose putting new retail on Georgia Avenue.There are homes across the street that would be disturbed by the bright lights and Georgia Avenue already has many vacant and failing retail buildings.They said that there has been too little public review of the proposal.

 

Mr. McPherson said the quality of the design should match Walter Reed's reputation.

 

Marjery Goldberg, of Ward 4, said the LRA Committee did a good job with the redesign and the community and the committee came together very well.

 

Commissioner Speaks, an LRA Committee alternate member, said she does not want the duplicate Silver Spring.The redeveloped site should be unique and offer something for everyone in the community.

 

Commissioner Wheeler, also an LRA Committee alternate member, said she is concerned about the density of the development. It is similar to Columbia Heights and is not appropriate for the area.The Georgia Avenue frontage should remain largely green. Maps did not identify existing green space, she said.Also, the proposal offers no clear idea about transportation access and how to attract people to the site. The Committee's October vote is premature.The Army's rules permit an extension, she added.

 

Commissioner Green said she would like to see more green space on Georgia Avenue but some retail there is appropriate.She also said she is concerned about the lack of detail about transportation access. This should have been the first step, she said.

 

Commissioner Smith said the community voted at an earlier meeting to support new retail on Georgia Avenue.She also supports holding more community meetings.

 

Commissioner Abdullah said he is concerned that there is no commitment to hire or contract a fair share of the project's jobs to Ward 4 residents.

 

2. In a 4-0-1 show-of-hands vote following a motion from Commissioner Sydnor, the Commission agreed to write a letter of support to the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities for a mural to be installed on an existing blank wall at the Cork 'n Bottle Building, 7421 Georgia Avenue, NW.

 

The vote followed a presentation from Artist Michelle Marcello, Marjery Goldberg and Leila Batties all Takoma and Shepherd Park residents.The mural depicts images from the Shepherd Park and Takoma neighborhoods and the Washington, DC skyline. They said that the mural will cost $50-60,000, with the Commission on the Arts covering about half of the cost.

 

Andre Carley, the Vice President of Concerned Neighbors, Inc., said his group supports the mural.Kenny Peskin, of ANC 4A, agreed.

 

William Howland, the Director of the Department of Public Works, responded to concerns from Georgia Avenue Resident Michael Sindram that putting a publicly-funded mural on a private business is wrong.Mr. Howland said that there are dozens of examples of similar projects all over the city and they are very successful.

 

Presentations and Discussions

1. Phetmano Phannavong, of the Natural Resources Administration, discussed flood insurance and answered questions.He said that only damage from surface water, but not sewer back-ups or basement flooding from a high water table, are covered by flood insurance.

 

2.Commissioner Wheeler submitted a written report, with receipts, on the $600 beautification grant given to the Old Takoma Business Association for plants at the triangle park at4th Street and Blair Road, NW.

 

3.Commissioner Smith distributed a one-page request for $2,000 for a block party to be held on the 700-Block of Somerset Place, NW in October.The money would be used for arts and crafts materials, cleaning supplies and portable toilet rental.There was no second to her motion.

 

Commissioners Green, Wheeler and Sydnor said they could not support the proposal because there was no budget and many other details were not provided.Also, Commissioner Smith had earlier promised to submit the proposal to the Auditorís office for review and this had not happened, Commissioner Green said.

 

Commissioner Sydnor said the proposal should come from the community and residents should demonstrate support.Commissioner Smith said supporting residents were present but had to leave the meeting.

 

Commissioner Sydnor said Commissioner Smith should submit the proposal again and include a budget and address Commissionersí other concerns.

 

Community Concerns

1.Jack Werner, of 6809 Willow Street, NW,whose home is within ANC 4B07 and the Takoma Historic District, asked the Commission to support putting a small brick addition to the rear of his home. He presented the Commission with renderings.†† Vice Chair Wheeler said Commissioner Jones, who represents Willow Street, was not present at this time, but would be given the plans.A recommendation vote to the Historic Preservation Review Board could go on the October agenda, she said.

 

2.Whitney Parnell and Stefanie Vestal, of City Year, a nonprofit group, described their organization, which, among other things, puts full-time mentors in public schools.

 

3.†† Andre Carley, of 9th Street, NW, asked the Commission to write a letter to the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.The letter would ask for the status of Famous Pawn's application for a pawn license at 7301 Georgia Avenue.ANC 4B opposed the application.Commissioner Green said she would write the letter.

 

4.†† Robert Maxwell, of 7th Street, NW, asked the Commission to vote to open its monthly planning meetings to the public and said that his reading of the law required ANC 4B to do so.He also noted that he submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for documents and recordings.

 

5.Perry Redd, of Marietta Place, NW, and Michael Sindram, of Georgia Avenue, NW, said the meetings should be open, and openness in government was a key issue in the recent Mayoral election.Mr. Redd provided a tape recorder to record the meeting.

 

6.Paul Montague, of 3rd Street, NW, agreed the meetings should be open.

 

Several Commissioners responded to concerns about opening the meetings. Commissioners Abdullah and Green said the meetings should be open. Commissioners Speaks and Abdullah noted that nothing secret is said in the meetings, and they are held primarily to set the public meeting agenda.

 

Commissioner Green also said that the issue reached beyond ANC 4B because every ANC in the city has been told that its planning meetings can be closed. However, if open to the public, ANC 4Bísmonthly planning meetings needed to be noticed and held in a public space and not in the Commission's office building, which is not open to the public in the evenings, she said.

 

Commissioner Wheeler said that any decision is premature because the issue has been referred to the Office of the Attorney General for a legal opinion.

 

 

Submitted by Sara Green, Secretary