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Deal disrupts D.C. towing

Land sale for Kmart to leave city with no impound lot

(Published April 9, 2001)


Staff Writer

City officials are moving forward with plans to sell the city’s Brentwood Road impoundment lot to a developer before the end of this month, despite not having finalized relocation plans for essential services located on the site.

D.C. City Council signed off on the $3 million deal that the Williams administration negotiated with Detroit-based Graimark/Walker LLC, which has announced plans to build the city’s first Kmart and Home Depot stores and its fifth Giant Food store on the Northeast Washington site. Closing on the land deal is scheduled April 23 to allow the developer to meet a construction schedule that officials say is seasonally dependent due to the type of soil at the future retail site.

In addition to being the city’s impoundment lot for towed vehicles, the site – adjacent to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station – currently accommodates one of three Department of Public Works’ storage domes for road salt and the Department of Motor Vehicles’ road testing operations for those seeking a driver’s license.

Residents of Wards 5, 6 and 7 have all grumbled in recent weeks as they have been told of plans to relocate the services to their neighborhoods.

Plans to move the DMV’s road testing to a municipal service center at the Penn-Branch Shopping Center in Ward 7 were met with vehement opposition from the neighborhood’s residents and Ward 7 Councilman Kevin P. Chavous and reportedly have been derailed. Chavous and others said they believe the traffic congestion in the Penn-Branch area will make road testing of new drivers there hazardous. They also complained that DMV officials failed to consult them before announcing their decision during a recent budget hearing before the city council.

A temporary plan developed by the D.C. Office of Property Management to move the impoundment lot to a parking lot at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium also brought such loud protests from Ward 6 Councilwoman Sharon Ambrose and the stadium’s neighbors that DPW spokeswoman Mary Myers said the RFK site "is not being considered."

"We have no site," Myers said.

Myers said the city’s Blue Plains auction and storage facility for abandoned vehicles may be used for some temporary storage of towed vehicles, but she said the area is not accessible enough for it to be considered as a permanent site for the impoundment lot.

While the city continues to seek a new site, Myers said "a more selective approach" to towing vehicles is being used temporarily since the city’s 600-space impoundment lot must be cleared.

"Booted vehicles that cannot stay on the street are being taken to Blue Plains, and ticketed vehicles that are causing a safety problem … more than likely will be picked up and taken to a legal place on the street. They’ll still be ticketed," Myers said.

She said city workers have been relocating some vehicles, rather than towing them to the impoundment lot, for "a couple of weeks" due to the need to empty the Brentwood Road site. Myers said a policy of relocating vehicles, rather than towing them, will officially begin April 9.

Plans to build a new salt dome on Farragut Street NE to replace the one at Brentwood Road appear to be on track, despite some grumbling by the area’s neighbors. The proposed site, at 401 Farragut St. NE, is a former industrial site within blocks of South Dakota Avenue. City officials have been meeting for several weeks with Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5A members and the area’s residents to discuss the plans.

Myers said the current salt dome will be demolished, rather than moved. She said approximately 7,000 tons of road salt currently stored in the dome will need to be moved to temporary storage until a new dome is constructed. The city’s other two salt domes currently are filled to capacity, she said.

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator