Neighborhood leaders across the District of Columbia are forming an alliance to fight what they say are Metro’s secretive development tactics and questionable practices by the D.C. Office of Planning.
The group, composed mostly of residents along Metro stations in Wards 5 and 4, has dubbed itself the Coalition for Community Control (CCC). About a dozen persons met at a home in Northeast on Saturday to organize and plan.
“We do not like the way [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority] selects its developer before ever talking to the community,” said Darcy Flynn, an advisory neighborhood commissioner (ANC) in Brookland who is scheduled to testify about the Office of Planning during a D.C. Council hearing this afternoon.
“The Office of Planning is in no way getting community input and accurately sharing that with whoever it is they’re getting it for,” Mr. Flynn added.
The District’s Office of Planning works as a liaison between Metro and the community, gathering public input. Metro, in turn, uses that information, working with development companies and evaluating their proposals, according to Metro and city officials.
Those factors, CCC members say, combine to create a development process that excludes local residents, ignores or misrepresents their wishes and rubber-stamps business interests.
The CCC formed out of several conflicts between individual neighborhood groups opposed to the development plans of Metro and the District. So far, the alliance has members who live near the Metro stations of Brookland, Fort Totten, Georgia Avenue/Petworth and Takoma.
The complaints about development in each neighborhood differ, but on Saturday, the “common theme was a real concern and distrust about the Office of Planning and WMATA,” Mr. Flynn said.
Metro is trying to sell off much of its surplus property around its stations to developers, primarily to boost ridership and to generate revenue, Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said.
And Mayor Anthony A. Williams has made building more residential housing to increase the city’s tax base a priority.
The Office of Planning is under the authority of the deputy mayor for economic development, according to the city’s agency structure.
“The [D.C.] Office of Planning that is under economic development has become the office of planning for development,” said Thomas Rooney, a Brookland resident and longtime neighborhood activist who hosted the meeting Saturday.
That structure “sets up an immediate conflict of interest,” said Sara Green, an ANC in Takoma, Md., who is fighting Metro’s development plan near that station. “There is an assumption from the get-go that we want to build, build, build. It’s all cheerleading for the developers.”
Metro and city officials say they are following routine procedure for these developments and are willing to work with the public at the appropriate time.
“We’re certainly willing to work with all the groups, including this one,” Mr. Feldmann said. “We’re more than happy to share information with them when it’s appropriate in the process to do that.”
Mr. Feldmann said development proposals initially are kept confidential for propriety and competitive reasons, but there is a “part of the process that absolutely should be open for public scrutiny.”
But, he added, “public input doesn’t always mean … we change our mind and vote against the project.”
The Office of Planning official who is working on the Brookland development, Derrick Woody, was not in his office yesterday but told The Times he is trying to work with community groups.
“I’ve made an effort to tell them what I know and to be open to listen to their comments and criticisms,” Mr. Woody said. “I’d like to continue that productive and positive relationship and move forward with this process.”
Angela Christophe, a resident near the Georgia Avenue/Petworth station, said the Office of Planning has overlooked opposition to the city’s plan to relocate the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles to the area.
“It’s taken such a long time for them to get us information we’re interested in,” she said. “They make it seem we should be grateful for any development, never mind the impact on our neighborhood.”
The land for the DMV has been purchased, and city officials told residents they “will have a chance for input at the very end,” Miss Christophe said.
“Which is tantamount to saying you can pick out what color the building will be, but that’s it,” she said.