Sent: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 11:53 AM
Subject: PRESS RELEASE: HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMUNITY COMES OUT IN FULL FORCE TO STOP THE MAYOR FROM DESTROYING MCMILLAN PARK
FOR RELEASE: September 28, 2016
CONTACT: Linwood Norman, 804-837-0737
HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMUNITY COMES OUT IN FULL FORCE
TO STOP THE MAYOR FROM DESTROYING MCMILLAN PARK
City Outsources Defense of its own Zoning, Preservation Decisions
A virtual who’s who of the historic preservation community in Washington came to support the lawsuit designed to halt the deeply flawed development plan approved by the Mayor and the City Council that would lead to the destruction of the historic McMillan Sand Filtration Plant in Ward 5.
An amicus brief to the lawsuit originally brought by Friends of McMillan Park was filed jointly by The Committee of 100 on the Federal City, and the DC Preservation League. The lawsuit was also joined in part by the McMillan Coalition for Sustainable Agriculture, and DC for Reasonable Development. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, was a party at the administrative hearings and had also previously submitted public testimony to the National Capital Planning Commission and Zoning Commission citing erroneous assertions by the NCPC concerning the obstructed view of the Capitol from President Lincoln’s Cottage.
“Speaking as a lawyer, it seemed to me that the court expressed concern about the justifications of the Zoning Commission and the Mayor’s Agent decisions to move forward with the dense development of the site,” said Tony Norman, local attorney, founder and chairman of the McMillan Park Committee, responsible for working to have the site added to the DC Inventory of Historic Sites. “The court also raised important concerns about the Zoning Commission’s failure to address the gentrification impacts of the project.”
Curiously, the city did not file its own brief in the Court of Appeals and did not send any of its own lawyers to defend the decisions of the DC Zoning Commission or the Mayor’s Agent for Historic Preservation, but instead outsourced this work to the law firm representing the proposed developer, Vision McMillan Partners (VMP). While this is apparently perfectly legal, does the city not care enough to defend its own decisions? The outsourced law firm presumably will send its bill to the city, which has already paid about one million dollars to this firm under its exclusive rights agreement to develop the McMillan site.
The case ended up in the District Court of Appeals as a result of a lawsuit filed by Friends of McMillan Park to challenge the DC Zoning Commission and the Mayor’s Agent for Historic Preservation decisions to approve the high density McMillan development plan even though it ran roughshod over many local historic preservation and zoning regulations in force.
“I am astounded,” said Mary Pat Rowan, Ward 5 resident, landscape architect, and Committee of 100 member, “The administration of Mayor Bowser no longer even pretends that it is something other than a wholly owned subsidiary of Vision McMillan Partners. You sue the city, and VMP lawyers—the most expensive in town—defend the city. And the taxpayer is stuck with the tab. This is not a government of checks and balances, but a government of bank checks and bank balances. The people of the city are not only swindled, but their patrimony is slated for demolition.”
“We didn’t see a single citizen sitting with the lawyers representing the city’s development at the hearing,” noted Kirby Vining a director with Friends of McMillan Park, a lead plaintiff in the case. “By contrast, it was a happier day across the aisle from the blue suits where over 60 dedicated McMillan supporters came out to support the fine efforts of lawyers Andrea Ferster and Jason Klein who made professional, measured and precise points before the judges to support our case that the zoning and preservation processes in this case were deeply flawed and should be thrown out. We don’t know what the court will ultimately decide, but we do know that in the court of public opinion, we have made a strong case that resonates with the people.”