- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2001

Metro has halted millions of dollars worth of development plans on its property at two District of Columbia stations until it can do a better job of creating neighborhood support for the projects, transit agency and city officials said.

Transit agency planners and the D.C. Office of Planning have agreed to return to the drawing board to determine "how to proceed with involving the community on joint development projects," said Metro spokeswoman Cheryl Johnson.

Metro's hold on development applies to its Fort Totten and Brookland-CUA stations on the Red Line.

The transit authority previously had left it to developers to decide how much information about the plans to make public and how much community input to consider, Ms. Johnson said.

Metro's decision is "definitely a victory" for neighborhoods, said Darcy Flynn, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Brookland.

"I thank [General Manager] Dick White and [Metro] for hearing the community's concern and agreeing to put things on hold until a better process is in place," he said.

"But I remain concerned that it took this effort from the community to get [Metro] to treat the community with the respect it deserves."

The Washington Times first reported this year that residents near stations on the Red Line, including Fort Totten and Brookland, were outraged that development plans they disliked had proceeded without their input.

Neighborhood leaders from across the District in February formed a coalition to fight the plans and force Metro and the D.C. Office of Planning to reveal their plans.

Since then, D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at-large Republican, pressed Metro to halt the development projects and delay others until the transit system's board votes on new disclosure requirements.

Mr. White agreed to Mr. Catania's request, and the Metro board's Joint Development Committee is working on a new notification system.

"Dick White on down [the staff] has been very responsive to my request," Mr. Catania said.

"The same taxpayers who help support the Metro are entitled to the courtesy of participating in how development will occur," Mr. Catania said. "I'm trying to reflect the view that it's a public-private entity that relies on significant contributions from local jurisdictions."

"There was a policy in place, a long-standing policy, that Metro proceeded more like a private company that owned land and was entitled to do with it what it wants," he said. "That was the old Metro view."

Andrew Altman, director of the D.C. Office of Planning, did not return telephone calls seeking comment yesterday. Toni L. Griffin, deputy director for revitalization planning, also did not return calls.

Metro's decision does not affect a multimillion-dollar residential development at the Takoma station that was awarded to Eakin/Youngentob & Associates in Arlington, Va.

Eakin/Youngentob also submitted a $2.8 million bid to build 118 row-house apartments next to the Brookland-CUA station. Metro is delaying a decision on the Brookland site until the new rules are in place.

Mr. Catania said new interest in developing Metro station property in the District "happened all at once [and it is] just time to review the process, which is healthy for any large organization."

The decision could not have come sooner for members of Kingdom Life Christian Center, who learned of a development plan for the Fort Totten Metro station only a few weeks ago.

"We understand [Metro] owns the property. But there should be a sensitivity on their part for how they develop that property and be consistent with the needs of the community," said the Rev. Donald B. Wright, senior pastor of the church, which stands next to the station.

"We're not averse to the idea of development, but we do want to make certain the community and community leaders are heard in the process," he said. "Why not develop it in a way that brings the community into the process and allows community to be involved in the process?"

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