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Mayor seeks mediated fix for Columbia Hts. Impasse

(Published November 15, 1999)

By OSCAR ABEYTA

Staff Writer

Seeking a way to lessen the political damage wrought by the Redevelopment Land Agency’s Columbia Heights decision, Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ administration has appointed two private mediators to try to see if any solutions can be found to this community impasse.

Williams announced his plan Nov. 5 at a press conference in front of a crowd of skeptical community activists that frequently questioned the administration’s willingness to listen to community concerns in the planning process.

"The problem has been that at the end of the process the citizens’ input has been ignored," Columbia Heights resident Gary Imhoff told the mayor.

The mayor, Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham and Councilwoman Charlene Drew Jarvis, chairman of the Committee on Economic Development, all acknowledged failings in the planning process that frequently leave neighborhood concerns out of final development plans.

As part of a larger effort to reform the planning process, the administration appointed Gwendolyn Whiting and Bob Stein, both experienced mediators and D.C. residents, to conduct a 30-day "assessment period" to try to find areas of common ground between parties in the community that oppose and support the RLA’s choice.

The mediators will issue a report to the mayor after the 30-day period with their findings and recommendations. Administration officials would not say whether the range of recommendations could include overturning the RLA decision.

The RLA was scheduled to award exclusive rights agreements to the winning bidders, Horning Brothers and Grid Properties, on Nov. 18 but Williams said he has asked the board to delay the decision to see if any resolution can be achieved.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator