Subject: PRESS RELEASE: District Pays Developer Lawyers to Oppose Residents DC Court of Appeals to Hear McMillan Appeal: What’s Holland & Knight Afraid of?
Friends of McMillan Park
FOR RELEASE: August 5, 2015
CONTACT: Erin Fairbanks, firstname.lastname@example.org, 240-506-6777, @czarinamaude
District Pays Developer Lawyers to Oppose Residents
DC Court of Appeals to Hear McMillan Appeal: What’s Holland & Knight Afraid of?
District taxpayers are apparently paying the city’s premier developer law firm to oppose a group of four District residents--the McMillan Four--from participating in the appeal of the DC Zoning Commission’s approval of the development of McMillan Park.*
The firm, Holland & Knight, which has been paid more than a half million dollars by the District last year alone, is asking the DC Court of Appeals, the District’s highest court to not allow the McMillan Four-- Andrea E. Rosen, Deborah Hanrahan, Keshini Ladduwahetty, Camille Bourguignon--to join the case because, Holland & Knight claims, their filing was untimely.
Holland & Knight represents Vision McMillan Partners (VMP), which is a LLC that includes the Trammel Crow Company, “one of the nation’s leading developers and investors in commercial real estate,” plus a number of local entities and the District government. Overall, according to The New York Times, the city is paying “$78 million in predevelopment costs, including fees to lawyers” to turn McMillan into a mixed-use complex with over a million square feet of medical office buildings.
The McMillan Four, proceeding without a lawyer (i.e. pro se), calculated the deadline to file their appeal from the date the zoning decision was published in the DC Register according to DC Zoning Commission rules.
Holland & Knight, (which gave 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, the John A. Wilson Building, as its business address in their McMillan Subdivision Application**) contends that a ruling in a prior appeals case means that they missed the filing deadline. However, as the Four point out in their brief, in that case the Court “sought to expand judicial inclusivity,” not restrict it.
Holland & Knight’s argument on behalf of VMP seems to seek the same ends as VMP’s previous documented partnership with Fontaine & Co, a Baltimore public relations firm, and VMP partner. Fontaine was hired to “maximize local support/effort while effectively discrediting opposition,” and to “… provide continuous political cover to local elected officials.”***
When the Fontaine scheme was revealed via FOIA-obtained documents, it was condemned by several Councilmembers. “It really doesn’t look good to have a PR firm…discredit the community,” said Chairman Phil Mendelson while at-large Councilmember Elissa Silverman called the actions “very questionable.” Even Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, a VMP supporter, said the Fontaine campaign raised “deep concerns with me.” VMP was forced to disown its partner.
“Once again, it appears that District taxpayers are footing the bill for VMP to undermine us, the residents, first with Fontaine, now through high-priced lawyers, Holland & Knight,” said Debby Hanrahan, a Ward 2 resident and supporter of keeping McMillan a park.
“This is an all-too-typical example of the unholy collusion between this city government and favored developers to silence the voices of citizens. Our elected officials should tell VMP/Holland & Knight to back off, and use District lawyers if they truly believe in this terrible deal. What are they afraid of?"
Holland and Knight continues to bill the City hundreds of thousands of dollars, albeit circuitously through the front-group VMP LLC, to pay for services fighting District residents on all legal fronts.
VMP has also used City dollars to purchase experts, consultant reports, yard signs, and a variety of other technical and lobbying services to support their proposed project and to oppose on-the-ground facts and public outcry to the current McMillan deal.****
Both the Mayor's Agent and DC Court of Appeals should be issuing decisions about McMillan soon.
*DC Court of Appeals Cases 15-AA-587, 588, 589, & 590 “McMillan Four’s Response”
**See page 10 of McMillan Four’s Response
***See page 19 of McMillan Four’s Response