Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Skyland Hearing Nixes Neighbor Concerns

Skyland Town Center had its day before the Zoning Commission on Monday, reviewing the development team's Planned Unit Development (PUD) application for the Skyland shopping center and residences. The applicant's sponsors are proposing that the city rezone the entire site, currently a mix of residential and commercial usage, to an entirely commercial C-3-A district.

The rezoning is central to the developers dreams to turn the aging, low-density retail site into 450-500 residential units and 280,000 s.f. of retail, creating a mixed-use destination retail center. The project has been mired in controversy, not the least of which is the fact that reluctant owners of the property are locked in a struggle with the city and development team, which together want to use eminent domain proceedings to force the owners off their land. Owners contend that the city has pushed the envelope of judicial proceedings rather than negotiate with the owners for sale of the land, noting the unenviable fate of property owners in similar circumstances. In the now infamous Kelo decision, the Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that developers are within their right to force owners off their land in the name of economic development, a result which still makes conservatives and property rights advocates seethe.

Yesterday's hearing brought up additional concerns, this time from a nearby group of homeowners with the opposite problem. In a May 12th letter submitted to the Zoning Board by Fort Baker Drive residents, attorney Martin Sullivan suggested that the most effective method for protecting the adjacent homeowners from construction risks could be forcing Skyland to purchase four of their homes. Ironic, given that the owners of the underlying Skyland properties don't want to sell, but the city is forcing them to do so. But neighbors believe this would protect them from damage resulting from the excavation and construction process going on next door. In a double irony, the developers have declined the offer, and the Zoning Commission appears unwilling to make them do so.

In last evening's hearing, Commission Chairman Anthony Hood went as far as to "commend the applicant [Skyland Holdings]" for its thorough construction management plan and its responsiveness to neighbor concerns.

Although not completely unsympathetic to the Fort Baker Drive homeowners, Chairman Hood found that the construction management plan submitted by Skyland Holdings was more than sufficient in addressing concerns about property damage. Any repair and damage to the properties that are sustained during construction of Skyland will be repaired by the developers, said Hood, and promises to do so are "enforceable."

Our more focused readers will have noticed a twist, something that landowners complain of as one of the injustices of the system that is pushing them out: that the applicants for the zoning change do not hold title to the land. The development team has applied for, and the city is considering, rezoning land that neither owns. Advocates for the owners have challenged this aspect of the PUD process, so far to no avail.

Skyland Holdings LLC is a joint effort of The Rappaport Companies, William C. Smith & Company, Harrison Malone Development LLC, The Marshall Heights Community Development Organization, and the Washington East Foundation).

By June 4th, the Skyland team will have to submit its final community benefit plan and list of proffers to the Zoning Board. Look for a final ruling on PUD at the end of June.

DC Real Estate and Development News


Joe M. said...

I've read the article twice, and I don't know who owns the land. What am I missing?

Ken on May 27, 2010, 2:57:00 PM said...


Fair enough, I think it could be clearer in the article. Our last article on the subject (see link in the story) was a fairly lengthy piece about ownership of the land - there are about 15 owners, mostly retailers, all of whom will be forced off the land by the eminent domain proceedings by the city and erstwhile developers. Sorry that was not clearer.

Que said...

Will atleast the type of business that are there currently except the carry outs be returning or all it all be restaurants and starbucks

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