Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Votes Cast at Last Night's ANC Meeting

I'd like to offer a rationale for some of my votes at last night's 3.5 hour ANC 5C meeting (it was an exceedingly long meeting, but constituent Ted McGinn was present the entire time). My colleagues didn't seem to understand and were amused that I was often the only "no" or "abstain" vote.

A quick aside: Terrance Judge of the Metropolitian Basketball League gave ANC 5C an appreciation plaque as a thank you for the Commission's grant that assisted the MBL with its basketball tournament. I don't ever recall an appreciative gesture to the ANC like that before, thanks Terrance.

The first Commission vote was on the Planned Unit Development (PUD) Request for St. Paul’s Housing Development. Commissioner Silas Grant urged that the Commission voted down approval for the project because he and several community members had concerns with the amenities package proposed by St. Paul's, in part because it was supposedly inadequate. I have a problem with the amenities package concept (also known as legal bribery or extortion in some circles).

Normally I would vote with deference to the Commissioner with a particular interest in a project, and likewise I would vote begrudingly in favor of an amenities package where the developer and residents agreed. Here they disagreed and the entitlement mentality reared its head.

The developer offered 25 affordable housing units in an environment in which we are facing a housing crisis with ever-dropping housing prices, and shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars for various community projects and benefits. Detractors wanted millions.

The project construction will bring jobs earmarked for D.C. residents to our area. The people who move in will expand our tax base. We're fortunate that the developer is still moving forward with the project given the economic crisis currently gripping the country. Lehman Brothers went bankrupt this week.

I was the only Commissioner to vote against Silas's proposal.

Then Ted McGinn sought a vote on his WiFi Network Proposal (ANC single member district 5c03) and several commissioners thought it would be a conflict of interest to proceed at this time because Ted is running for my seat on the Commission. So the Commission voted to defer a vote until... Ted is actually a commissioner and might actually have a conflict of interest. All they did was deprive SMD 5C-02 of a vote on the project. I voted to abstain because I have endorsed Ted for the office.

And what is the project Ted is chairing? Its predominant purpose is to bring the internet to the poor and connect them to the wider community. Ted gains no economic benefit, only bragging rights. And he's not a commissioner... yet.

The evening didn't slow down. Next came an emergency vote request by KIPP Public Charter School concerning its proposal for Cook Elementary School. This matter has been around for a couple of months, but this item went on the agenda only days ago. I tried to get Paul Ruppert on the agenda out of fairness, because he has a competing proposal.

The presentation didn't go very well for KIPP, I think they had technical difficulties. Commissioners properly zoned in on the fact that the community had not had a chance to weigh in on the proposed use (I for one had little notice that ANC 5C would become involved in the matter). The Commission voted sensibly to defer a vote until residents have had a chance to hear the proposals of all. I found this to be the best possible resolution, because both of the leading proposals are high-quality and informed residents should make this judgment call.

At this time, I went over to talk to Alex of KIPP and Paul to let them know that I valued both of their projects, and that we should work out a time for presentations to residents. By the time I made my way back to my seat, another vote was already being taken on the PUD Extension for the 4th and Rhode Island NE Project. Having heard virtually none of the brief presentation, I voted to abstain and my colleagues were amused. But how could I cast a completely uninformed vote?

Some of the most contentious moments were left for last. Chairwoman Bonds was moving towards closing the meeting when a resident asked to address a community concern. Bonds noted that the community concerns portion of the meeting had been at the beginning but gave this T Street N.W. resident the opportunity to speak. And she then spoke perhaps more eloquently than anyone else that evening.

The resident was very concerned about an upstart business's application for a tavern license. Parking, noise, trash, extended operation hours, and higher crime were the stated concerns. Fair enough, but the residents would-be brief comments turned into a resolution for ANC 5C to back a challenge to the liquor license. The resolution obviously had not been on the agenda and the tavern owner had been given no notice of the impromptu resolution affecting his rights. I voted no on the challenge due to due process concerns.

Residents can and will challenge this liquor license and seek concessions. We ought to respect our businesses (there are too few) enough to give their owners the opportunity to present the other side. The resolution passed, but I believe that other commissioners were on board with me on this one.

Finally, our treasurer gave the latest estimated figures on ANC 5C's net worth: $15,572 in checking and $147,416 in savings. I hope we can trust Industrial Bank to stay afloat.


Anonymous said...

So this means that the tavern liquor license is effectively blocked?

Stu said...

The Tavern License is not blocked.

The ANC voted only to tentatively oppose the application so that a memorandum of understanding can be in place between the owner and the residents.

We are working to get the MOU in place before the ABRA hearing so that the application can move forward.

Residents - especially on T street - want to know they are protected.

ap said...

Does the ANC frequently vote on resolutions that are not on the agenda? Isn't there some requirement for prior notification of a vote?

However, if I understand Stu, this may actually be a necessary and positive step in moving the MOU process forward.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kris,

The project was not a "Matter of Right" project. That was the point of the developer applying for the P.U.D.

The citizens in the community want an amenities package that is higher in value as an exchange for the variance that would be given with the P.U.D. which would increase the density of the project.


AM+G Marketing said...

Great blog Kris! I would love to hear from the residents that live above or next to the tavern.

Kris Hammond said...

Hi Silas,

You are correct, I got that fact wrong in my haste to post early this morning. I was not the only commissioner with the wrong impression. In any event, community members provided some decent reasons for opposing the PUD; my vote reflects my consternation with the process itself.

I'm not saying we should give developers a free ride by any means, but the harder people are on the developers, the more often the developers will go matter-of-right because of the hassle. Then the community will not have much leverage at all.


Anonymous said...

My name is Peter Pawlowski and I own and live at 68 T ST NW five or so houses away from Baraki . While in the eyes of the law it does not matter I have lived here for five years I want this restaurant or tavern and I do not want any restrictions placed on Baraki. The only thing I worry about is that Baraki succeeds. If in a few years when Baraki goes to renew its liquor license there are issues then lets object then but for now let’s let see how they do. I want a bar that I can buy a drink at 10pm or 2 am. People worry about parking because of Baraki well most of us worried about parking because of “The Providence” yet their condo president is an objector. How about the residence of “The Providence” fix their parking impact. Not fair to pick on the condos for parking how about the residence of Rhode Island avenue that got curb cuts from our past ineffective ANC leaders to remove parking. I support all of those curb cuts and the rights of “The Providence” to park on T ST NW just as I do. Chris yes Ted was once and may be a big supporter of Cleopatra Jones who did everything she could to allow curb cuts as our ANC commissioner. Yes I will say that while I have never met Ted in person he will always have my gratitude for the farmers market and I do think he would be an excellent ANC commissioner. As for other parking issues how about St. Martins Catholic church having its MD congregants double parking on T ST, lets drive them from the block.

I embrace the legal commercial activity on the corner as a way to drive down the drug and vagrant activity at the corner of first and T ST NW. I am tired of people that want to object to everything, those that take the extreme against someone opening a small business should realize if the business does not follow through in two years you can object to the license. Support investments in Bloomingdale.

As a side I am sure I know who the eloquent person was that spoke, she is a neighbor and friend. She, a person who’s opinion I value and whose words are very eloquent. I agree with her views but I do not want the extreme conservative anti business views to overrun the process she started.

Stu support this license and do not object as my ANC commissioner you should under stand the importance of business after all what liquor license do you have for your business to serve beer?

By the way you can email me at if you want to address this issue. If you disagree with me then lets talk, if you agree with me then lets talk but I am a IMBY (In My Back Yard) and not a NIMBY.