Last night the ANC met for its July session, the last call for the summer. With a “vanilla” agenda, as one commissioner called it, the night held few surprises.
West Heating Plant
GM has covered this multiple times before, but if you’re just catching up, here’s a primer: Way back in the 40s, the federal government took land at the confluence of the C & O Canal and Rock Creek from the National Park Service and built a large heating plant on the property. The plant was used to provide building heat to the federal government’s properties on the west side of downtown (primarily the State department). It burned coal for a heat source.
The plant was converted to natural gas at some point and then about ten years ago it was shut down for good. Since then it has sat unused. GSA is finally in the process of selling the property.
The neighbors of the property are nervous about this. They want the south half of the property returned to its previous use as park land. (And some would like the plant itself torn down, but they acknowledge that that is an unlikely outcome). To do so they initially suggested that GSA could either give the property back to NPS or sell the property with restrictions on the use of the south half of the property. GSA doesn’t want to do that. They just want to sell it as soon as possible for the highest price, and that was even before Congressional Republicans started making political hay over the ten years the property sat unused.
So the neighbor’s attention shifted to the city. The property is currently unzoned. If the Office of Planning zones the south half of the property as parkland, then that’s how it would get used. Fait accompli.
They key is that the zoning would have to be in place before the auction. If it’s not, then some very deep pockets will be emptying large portions of those pockets to purchase the property. Once they have the property, they will spend even more to make sure they receive the most lenient zoning category.
So to prevent this from coming to pass, the Friends of the Georgetown Waterfront Park, CAG (disclosure: GM is CAG’s secretary), and now the ANC have formally asked OP to act fast to zone the property in a way to restore and preserve the public’s access to this historic site. Continue reading