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: