D.C. rescinds approval to sell land

The D.C. City Council voted unanimously to withdraw its approval of a bill to sell public land in the West End area to a private developer.

A motion requested by councilmembers Carol Schwartz, Kwame Brown and Jack Evans tabled the legislation indefinitely. A spokesperson for Councilmember Evans said the bill would most likely expire at the end of the council’s current term without any further discussion.

Local community groups, including the Foggy Bottom Association and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, had protested the sale of public land without any competitive bidding to Eastbanc Inc., a Georgetown-based real estate development company.

In testimony at the council meeting on Oct. 2, Councilmember Schwartz expressed her frustration with the Mayor’s office for classifying the bill as “emergency legislation.”

“It appears, in retrospect, that there really was no emergency,” Schwartz said.

“This should not have happened, and I am relieved that through this motion for reconsideration we now have an opportunity to provide for a much more competitive process with ample opportunity for community input,” she said.

ANC Chairman L. Asher Corson said the rescinded legislation sheds a positive light on the power of local activism.

“Hopefully this will set a precedent in the District, so that when decisions are made without public input there will be repercussions,” Corson said. “Frankly it shows that the people still matter and that the elected leaders still have to listen to us.”

The bill was initially labeled as “emergency legislation” to allow residents of the Tiverton building to buy their property under the D.C. Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act.

The property is currently occupied by the West End Library and a fire station, which would have been rebuilt in the developer’s plan, along with new residential housing.

Mike Malloy, a resident of the Tiverton apartment building and the president of his building’s tenant association, said he was satisfied with the council’s reaction.

“The councilmembers got a wake up call from the community. To their credit I think we were heard. We weren’t yelling and screaming but we made our point to them,” Malloy said.

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