- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 16, 2006

The U.S. Senate yesterday approved a land-transfer bill that will give the District the rights to more than 200 acres of federally owned property, including the site for a planned D.C. United soccer stadium and the location of the D.C. General Hospital.

“This is a great day for the residents of the District and for home rule,” D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said. “Ultimately, this legislation promotes economic development in the District that will make the nation’s capital more vibrant and more prosperous.”

The Federal and D.C. Government Real Property Act was introduced last year by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat.

The plan was initially proposed by the representatives and the Bush administration as a way to rid the federal government of burdensome properties and compensate the District for tax-revenue losses.

According to a 2003 report by the General Accounting Office, now the General Accountability Office, the District misses out on between $470 million and $1.1 billion in tax revenue because of the amount of federally owned land in the city and the District’s inability to tax the income of nonresident workers.

Mrs. Norton said the legislation mistakenly had been put on hold after Congress adjourned Sept. 30, the same date the House approved the bill.

She said the bill is a partial step in fixing the structural imbalance caused by the District’s relationship with the federal government. She said she “has no doubts” President Bush will sign the bill, because White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten, who formerly served as Office of Management and Budget director, was instrumental in introducing it.

“You get use out of land that was for all intents and purposes, despite its value, basically useless to you,” Mrs. Norton said.

The bill mandates that the National Park Service transfer the titles or administrative jurisdiction of more than 15 properties to the District. The General Services Administration will transfer two titles.

In return, the District will transfer titles or jurisdiction of more than 10 properties to the Park Service. The legislation includes a provision to create a memorial for disabled veterans on one of the properties, and the city also would turn over to the federal government the title to five buildings at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast.

Among the largest parcels the District will receive are the 100-acre Poplar Point site in Southeast — where a new stadium for D.C. United is planned — and 66 acres around the hospital, called Reservation 13.

The District has considered options for the Reservation 13 site that have included a new hospital or health clinic and hundreds of housing units.

The land transfer also is expected to speed development of the 27,000-seat soccer stadium.

D.C. United officials are working with the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. on plans to make the stadium a focal point in a 150-acre development that will include houses, stores and parks.

“This is an important step toward D.C. United staying in the District and making a major investment in the D.C. community,” said Kevin Payne, D.C. United president and chief executive officer. “We will work with Mayor-elect (Adrian M.) Fenty, the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, other city agencies and the people of Anacostia to finalize plans for a development anchored by United’s new stadium.”

John Mahoney, chairman of the Sports and Entertainment Commission’s soccer committee, said passage of the bill eliminates the largest obstacle toward getting the project completed.

“I think this is very positive for soccer,” he said. “This is what we’ve all been waiting for. Hopefully, things will start happening very quickly now.”

The bill also transfers several small parcels of land that sit on the site of the Washington Nationals’ new ballpark along South Capitol Street and Potomac Avenue in Southeast.

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