Friends of McMillan Park
For Release: November 5, 2015
Contact: Erin Fairbanks, email@example.com, @czarinamaude
Silverman, Mendelson Clash over McMillan
Freshman Councilmember Elissa Silverman on Tuesday sharply disagreed with Chairman Phil Mendelson and her colleagues over the absence of competition in the selection of the developer for McMillan Sand Filtration Plant and Park. The exchange took place as the Council considered approval of a five-year extension for the city to transfer ownership of the 25-acre site to Vision McMillan Partners (VMP).
At a Committee of the Whole meeting prior to the legislative session, Silverman cited the recent letter from DC Auditor Kathy Patterson to Chair Mendelson. After examining records from the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Patterson found that VMP won the job of “master project planner,” but subsequently was designated, without competition, as the project’s developer and owner, including responsibility for financing and vertical construction. Friends of McMillan Park (FOMP) have repeatedly pointed this out to the DC Council. Patterson effectively agreed with FOMP and concluded that “a new competitive process” should be undertaken.
“The master project planner should not be the developer,” Silverman said. "That's Planning 101."
Silverman’s objections were rebutted by Council Chair Phil Mendelson. He said it was “too late to unwind” the deal and that there had been a lot of local input and approvals, although a key local organization cited by the Chairman -- the McMillan Advisory Group (MAG) -- did not support the VMP plan, contrary to the year-old report from the Mayor’s Office from which Mendelson quoted.
"Elissa is unbought," said Robin Diener, director of the Library Renaissance Project. “Forthright questioning is the voters’ return on investment in a corporate-free candidate." Silverman campaigned on the pledge of no corporate contributions. Diener opposes the current VMP plan because, among other things, it doesn’t honor the community's decades-old request for a library.
In addition to the lack of competition, McMillan opponents cite a long list of other problems with the VMP plan including: hiring public relations firm Fontaine & Co. to “discredit the opposition” and “generate political cover for elected officials;” taxpayers paying $78 million in predevelopment costs (including over half a million to lawyers and $68 million to tear down the underground caverns of the sand filtration plant – a designated national landmark); greatly increased traffic for a transit-deficient community; and overwhelming public sentiment against the current approach as demonstrated at the committee hearing on the five-year extension where 20 witnesses testified against and only two in favor of granting the extension to VMP. These deficiencies were the subject of two recent Washington Post pieces.