Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Public Land to Go on Endangered List?

Councilmember Harry Thomas will introduce legislation today to overhaul the way the District privatizes its land - part of the debris left from the big bang of September's botched West End redevelopment plan. The official nyet to the District's sale of three parcels of land to Eastbanc Inc., came from the council during a public hearing in early October; now crusading residents, appetites whetted, are pursuing the issue of public land disposition on the whole. Councilmember Carol Schwartz made an attempt in mid-November to garner public interest in the issue by holding a roundtable to flesh out ideas about changing the land disposition process. Now, bringing action to the rhetoric, Councilmember Thomas will present a protection bill for public property to drive the nail further into the coffin of public-private partnerships.

Councilmember Thomas' bill resulted from a draft created by the People's Property Campaign (PPC), a resident-led division of Empower DC. PPC's vanguard effort to compose legislation materialized with the help of myriad supporters: Tenley ANC 3E Special Committee, Save Our Schools, Dupont Circle Citizens Association, Foggy Bottom Association and Benning Library Dynamo to name a few.

The bill lays out prerequisites for public land disposition; "The People's Property Bill would require, before disposing of any public property, a detailed explanation of why it has no other viable public use," according to the Library Renaissance Project - an active member in the campaign to retain property in public hands. In addition, the bill calls for a comprehensive inventory of public properties, a community development plan and a master facilities plan.

"Public property has found its protector. With an open door, an open mind, and decisive action - [Councilmember] Thomas is setting a new standard for responsiveness," said Robin Diener, Director of the Library Renaissance Project.


Anonymous said...

lame. lame. lame.

i say use eminent domain, take some private citizen's properties, and turn 'em into parks.

Anonymous said...

When would the council vote on this legislation?

Anonymous said...

I hope that "no other viable public use" does not become the standard. The "best use" and alignment with major city priorities should be the standard -- especially given that land can be exchanged for other important city purposes.

Anonymous said...

There are hundreds of vacant DC properties just sitting and rotting. What a shame that the knee jerks that sit on the DC City Council are going to multiply the problem.

Anonymous said...

Why does the land always have to be sold? It seems DC could enter into long term land lease agreements of 30, 40, even 99 years. At least the city would still own the property in the future.

Anonymous said...

The land should be sold so that TAXES
(you know income???) can be collected on it. If the city owns it, then no property taxes can be collected. In the long term , more $$$ will be collected than rental income.

Anonymous said...

Yep, DC is constantly griping about having no tax base thanks to the federal gov (which also gives us a huge cash subsidy), but then it sits on hundreds of acres of under-used land that it could sell for quick profit and the promise of an annuity in the form of property and income tax revenue.

Anonymous said...

The best use for the properties that were transferred to Eastbanc was to transfer them to Eastbanc as this will result in the highest value asset for the city and the neighborhood.
Now the political operatives and zoning attorneys that pulled this off were a bit too clever in that <0 neighborhood input was taken, however the process when it is opened up is both adversarial and expensive. Neighborhoods are not the only or even the major stakeholder in development. The city has an interest above and beyond the immediate neighborhood a project is located in. Unless a rational development process can be devised then this city will continue to have deals done on an ad hoc basis in no small measure to the duplicity of everyone involved, the activists,neighborhood groups, politicians, professional service companies and the developers. The comprehensive plan is a case in point were a good professional plan with a certain level of coherence is now gutted by neighborhood wish lists and political sops to community groups.
Enjoy! Here's to more back room deals coming your way and full employment security for land use attorneys.

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