According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 5E told the DC Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) that an “overwhelming majority” of residents living in the area surrounding historic landmark McMillan Park supported a commercial developer’s plans to turn the 25 acres of contiguous open green space into a mixed-use development featuring one million square feet of medical office space and about 150 townhouses.
The claim of community support was made by Commissioner Dianne Barnes, then Chair of ANC 5E, in official testimony submitted to the HPRB and presented in person at a hearing in November 2013. FOIA documents reveal that shortly after the hearing, Tania Jackson, then principal of Create Communitas, an outreach consultancy firm working for the development project team, asked Commissioner Barnes how many letters she had received in support of the proposed project. Commissioner Barnes, according to the documents, said that she had received eight such letters of support. Create Communitas was paid almost $90,000 by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development to coordinate public outreach for the project.
A review of HPRB files indicates that the Board received written testimony from 25 individuals and organizations in support of the plan to develop the McMillan Park site. In contrast, at least 80 people and organizations registered their disapproval of the project plans with HPRB. The Board also received petitions signed by 610 people opposed to the project. ANC 5E did not explain the basis for its claim of “overwhelming” community support for the project.
The ANC’s overblown claims are another example of how the coordinated attempt to destroy McMillan Park has abused procedures intended to protect DC historic properties.
The documents on which this article is based were obtained by Kirby Vining after he brought suit under the District of Columbia Freedom of Information Act. The District Government delayed complying with the Act by over a year and earned a reprimand from Judge Stuart Nash, as reported here in a previous article. Mr. Vining was represented by Don Padou, a lawyer specializing in FOIA suits.
The article above is based on documents 002775 and 010558 available in the “Barnes FOIA Documents” folder at the following location:
District Superior Court Judge Stuart Nash harshly criticized the District of Columbia’s litigation tactics effectively resisting his previous order to release documents in a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request concerning the city’s planned development of historic landmark McMillan Park. During a June 19, 2015 hearing, Judge Nash severely reprimanded lawyers representing the District Government, stating that the District unnecessarily delayed the production of documents that Judge Nash had already ordered released.
At the June 19, 2015 hearing, Judge Nash said he found it very troubling to see how the District had chosen to litigate this case, prolonging it in spite of the statutory requirement to produce documents quickly. He had already reamed the District’s attorneys at an earlier hearing, in October 2014, shortly after they filed an appeal that Judge Nash indicated must be respected. But Judge Nash suggested that his patience was tried by this tactic that he saw as “dilatory device,” part of what Judge Nash saw as a litigating strategy of delaying the case from moving forward. He noted that the District had not yet produced any documents ordered by the court and suggested that it was unlikely that the District had any justification for continuing to withhold the requested documents against his order.
Judge Nash also said that he shared Vining’s frustration, stating that “here we have his democratically elected government which is operating against him and not vindicating rights that have been provided to him by the D.C. counsel and it is not the District’s finest hour.”
On June 25, 2015, following an in-camera review of some additional materials, Judge Nash ordered the release of the last remaining requested documents in this case that began in November, 2013. Judge Nash had ordered the documents released a year before, but the District delayed the release through what Judge Nash called “a frivolous appeal” that he said amounted to an “abuse of the appellate process” to evade his order, according to the transcript of this case. Well over 10,000 pages of documents were finally produced in this case, about a year and a half after its inception. Kirby Vining was represented in this suit by Don Padou, a lawyer who specializes in FOIA cases.
The article above is based on the document “Transcript Vining v DC June 19 2015” available in the “Court Documents” folder at the following location:
Documents obtained by Friends of McMillan Park demonstrate that Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 5E, a local division of the District of Columbia Government in Ward 5, took orders from real estate developers that aspire to turn historic landmark McMillan Park in the quaint Bloomingdale community into a vast high-rise suburban office park development project.
Vision McMillan Partners (VMP), a consortium of developers seeking to build a 115-foot office tower and a cluster of several other buildings at McMillan Park, provided Dianne Barnes, then Chair of ANC 5E, with the text of a Resolution of Support that the developers wanted the ANC to officially adopt during the monthly ANC 5E meeting in November, 2013, for presentation to the DC Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) during a subsequent HPRB hearing on the controversial development proposal.
Ms. Tania Jackson of Create Communitas, a VMP outreach contractor, drafted the text of the proposed ANC 5E resolution. Commissioner Barnes accepted the proposed resolution text and placed it on official ANC letterhead for presentation to ANC 5E, according to email records between Commissioner Barnes and VMP’s outreach contractor. In the email dialogue, Ms. Jackson further urged the entire ANC to pass the resolution endorsing the commercial development proposal. Barnes replied to the developers that she feared problems from the Bloomingdale Civic Association that could conflict with the ANC vote, apparently referring to resistance from the other two Commissioners representing the Bloomingdale community on ANC 5E and the Bloomingdale Civic Association’s official position of opposition to the developer’s plan for McMillan Park.
Other documents obtained by the Friends indicate that Commissioner Barnes and several VMP employees had joined each other on social media networks such as LinkedIn to further coordinate their activities.
The article above is based on source documents numbered 010527, 010531, 010540, and 010543 available on the following website in the directory “Barnes FOIA Documents”:
This article is the first in a series based on documents received from DC Superior Court in response to a 2013 FOIA request concerning the development of McMillan Park.