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City agency problems delay decision

on Columbia Heights development plan

(Published May 17, 1999)


Staff Writer

An expected vote on proposed developments near the Columbia Heights Metro station was postponed when city lawyers realized one of the people charged with making the decision no longer lives in the District. Lawyers for the Redevelopment Land Agency decided Mary Sherburne could no longer sit on the panel because she is no longer a D.C. resident.

That decision left the agency’s board, which oversees the city government’s undeveloped land, with only two active members — RLA chairman Robert Walker and Dianne Pratt. The board will still be able to hold meetings and vote on matters before it as long as both remaining members attend the meetings, said Jose Nunez, the RLA’s secretary.

The RLA is supposed to be a five-member board, but with Sherburne’s departure, less than half of those seats are currently filled. The board could vote on the Columbia Heights proposals at its next regularly scheduled meeting May 20, but with only two members a vote would have to be unanimous.

Board member Sherburne, whose term expired March 22, recently sold her house and had plans to move to North Carolina, Nunez said. Board members are generally al-lowed to vote up to 180 days after their terms expire, but rules for membership require they be D.C. residents.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams had proposed nominating Norman Dong, his deputy chief of staff and interim city administrator, to serve as an interim RLA board member. The mayor said he decided not to pursue Dong’s appointment when he was informed the board could still make quorum without an additional member.

Nunez said the development proposals in Columbia Heights are on the agenda for the board’s May 20 meeting, although it is up to the board when to vote.

Four developers have submitted bids to develop properties in the Columbia Heights neighborhood near 14th Street and Park Road NW:

•Grid Properties of New York City wants to build a retail and entertainment complex at 14th and Irving streets NW that would contain shopping, movie theaters and an ice rink.

•D.C.-based Horning Brothers want to build a Giant supermarket and townhouses next to the historic Tivoli Theater and restore the theater’s façade and lobby and turn it into retail space.

•Saul Centers Inc. has proposed building a strip-style shopping center on the same site Grid Properties has proposed using. The proposed development includes a supermarket, restaurants, a dry cleaner and other shopping-center staples.

•Forest City Enterprises, based in Cleveland, has proposed using four parcels to build two shopping centers and a nine-story office building and restoring the Tivoli as a civic center.

Forest City’s proposal closely mirrors a community plan for the area developed in November 1997 by a group of 300 residents, city officials, architects and designers.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator