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RLA gets new members

Councilman concerned about Columbia Heights decisions

(Published June 28, 1999)

By OSCAR ABEYTA

Staff Writer

The agency in charge of the Districtís undeveloped land, including the parcels to be developed near the new Columbia Heights Metro station, finally has enough members to make decisions. But at least one councilman has doubts about the new membersí ability to make fully informed decisions.

The Redevelopment Land Agency was down to only two active members after one of its members moved to North Carolina. City Administrator Norman Dong, Georgetown real estate mogul Richard H. Levy and bank executive Lawrence Parks were confirmed by D.C. City Council June 22 to fill the three open seats on the five-member board.

Ward One Councilman Jim Graham sat in on the economic development committee hearing June 16 to question the nominees. Graham asked the trio about their readiness to make a decision concerning the projects proposed for the Columbia Heights Metro station on 14th Street NW.

The board could vote on those proposals as early as its July 1 meeting, but Graham said he is worried the new members will be voting without having attended the public hearings on the projects.

"To have the majority of the board arrive after the public hearings concerns me," Graham said. He said he is worried that the nominees might not get the full picture from studying written documents alone.

Levy acknowledged the "conundrum" the nominees are entering into by being appointed to the board so late in the decision-making process for the Columbia Heights projects.

"You want us to do the job quickly but you also want us to do it properly," Levy said. All the nominees pledged to Graham that they would brief themselves thoroughly on the proposals and the hearing testimony before voting.

Graham also questioned whether Dong would have time to serve on the board since, as city administrator, he oversees most city agencies.

"Well, my wife isnít too happy," Dong said. "I know itíll be a lot of extra Saturdays and nights. Weíve all got to suck it up and make it happen."

The board came under criticism for not moving quickly enough on the Columbia Heights projects. After the departure of board member Mary Sherburne in April, the board was apparently unable to come to an agreement on the proposals. After the June 3 meeting, the board called the mayorís Office of Boards and Commissions and asked them to send names of nominees to the council.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator