Last night the ANC met for its July meeting (the last till September) and while GM had to duck out again before it was finished, he caught several noteworthy items.
Last week when the news hit that Eastbanc had a contract to purchase the gas station at M and Pennsylvania, GM speculated that it was just a matter of time before they looked into acquiring one or both of the remaining gas stations at Q and Wisconsin. Well it may be even sooner than he thought.
At the ANC meeting, Commissioner Ed Solomon announced that the Exxon station at Q and Wisconsin was for sale. He brought it up to solicit public feedback and to determine how much of a grassroots feeling would there be to try to preserve the station.
GM lives practically around the corner from both these stations. In all honesty, he’d like to see at least one of them close. It’s a visual blight that really breaks up the pedestrian flow from lower to upper Georgetown.
But as long as there are still gasoline-powered cars, there will need to be some gas stations. And GM will admit that it is awfully convenient to drop off a car for service and walk home. But query whether we really need two immediately next to one another for that purpose? (And price competition doesn’t seemed to be served either, since the Exxon routinely has much more expensive prices than the Shell).
Ultimately, it’s not really a matter of what GM or anyone else wants. If the property is worth a lot more to a residential or commercial developer then it’ll be bought and developed. Needless to say, GM will keep a close eye on this.
The ANC introduced its newest member: GU student Dennis Quinn. He is filling Peter Prinderville’s seat, which he vacated due to graduation. Commissioner Starrells noted that all of the student commissioners have served well and expected Quinn to continue that track record.
GM will note two unfortunate aspects of Quinn’s addition. The first is that it keeps the Commission as virtually all male (Ellen Steury who stepped into Charlie Eason’s seat is the sole woman). It would be nice to see more balance on that account. And second, Quinn was immediately appointed secretary. GM was secretary of the Citizens Association of Georgetown. It’s a thankless task, and one that has almost always gone to a student commissioner. And it’s not simply a case of the new guy having to do the grunt work: new non-student commissioners have escaped the job. This hardly seems fair; the job should be rotated periodically to non-students.
But other than those things (neither of which are Quinn’s fault) GM welcomes the new commissioner.
Just before GM left he caught the opening rounds of what is shaping up to be a long and ugly fight. In short: an individual (GM couldn’t catch his name) purchased tax liens on two lots that happen to lie at the two entrances of an alley between 33rd and Potomac and N and O. The alley runs behind homes on O and N and is how the residents access their garages. The man who purchased the tax liens foreclosed on the liens and purchased the lots outright. He now wants to block the alleyway with fences.
The ANC was trying to be delicate about the legal aspects of the case, but GM’s comfortable saying that this is a clear cut example of a shakedown.The individual, who spoke, is pretending that he needs to protect his lots with fences, but since these would block the alleyway there can only be one thing he is truly seeking: money to go away.
There was some factual dispute aired at the meeting. It’s unclear whether the alley is public or private. The residents pointed out that the city repaved the alley within the last ten years, an odd thing to do if it were private. But another woman claimed that she had an easement to access the alley. You don’t need an easement to access a public alley, which would suggest it’s private. And the fact that there are tax lots that constitute the alley itself, that would suggest the city considers it private notwithstanding the roadwork.
Either way, the individual who purchased the lots claims that since he owns them now, he can do what he wants. That is clearly a naive view of how things work in Georgetown. The Old Georgetown Board can just keep rejecting each design he submits, and it likely would.
Moreover, despite his assertion that his title is clear, GM thinks there is probably a very strong case for a prescriptive easement. This is like adverse possession–where if you use somebody else’s property long enough it becomes yours–but instead of ownership you get an easement.
The long and the short of it is that even if the individual isn’t looking for a shakedown, he’s somebody who bought a worthless piece of property and can’t inflict damage to other people simply due to his mistake. (Probably the reason there was a tax lien is that the previously figured out that the lot was worthless and stopped paying taxes on it.)