Re: Last Night's Market Meeting
I attended last night's Office of Planning meeting regarding the Florida Market (A.K.A. The Capital City Market). This meeting was the first of the phase two meetings (there are only two phases to the overall planning process). The process culminates in a report that OOP will release and submit to the Council in January. If the Council adopts the report it could become law and would then have teeth that would affect future development at the Market. I'd like to make several points with this post:
1. These meetings organized by OOP are very important. We should all make an effort to show up to them (turn out at last night's meeting was pretty low). The Office of Planning has turned out some pretty good presentations and you are missing out on a lot of good info if you skip these meetings. Last night there was another reference to a not really released (but referenced in the Post a few years back) comprehensive plan that included the Market. The reference was to possibly establishing a cooking school there that could train people for careers in the culinary arts. Mostly last nights meeting just focused on the sorts of uses people might like to see, where they might like to see those uses, and what that might realistically mean (examining factors like building height).
2. These meetings aren't about New Town, but they are inextricably linked to it. Many people seem confused about the New Town proposal, and how it fits in with the OOP efforts. The OOP stuff is a parallel effort that was funded because of the New Town legislation, but it isn't a part of New Town. The OOP process is totally non-binding, unless (and until) the council turns it into law. That said, going to the meetings is useful because you get a good look at what is in the Market now, what could be there, and what effects might result from making certain changes. It's also a chance to ask any questions you might have and to hear other people's opinions.
3. People don't know much about New Town. Here is the legislation. Read it (really). Some highlights:
a. The historic preservation language is ridiculously weak. The plan will preserve the orginal historic market buildings "unless it is found impractical to do so by the Developer and the Office of Planning." Sec. 3(o). Impractical? Not exactly a high bar there.
b. The reference to blight at 3(d) previously referenced "blight" as defined in DC Code
2-1219.01(6). The definition relates to triggers for eminent domain power. The legislation requires the approval of the owners of 50% of the land to progress to its later stages. This 50% seems to get mischaracterized a lot as being 50% of the land owners, which is not the same thing. Sec. 6. Section 7 requires the Mayor to obtain the Council's approval before exercising eminent domain. Also note that contrary to the suggestion of the language in 3(d), that "[t]he Market is becoming an attractive place for criminal activity, homeless
inhabitants," crime is not increasing, but rather declining in the Market. This passage used
to end with "and is detrimental to public safety, morals, or welfare," but I guess that part
c. The construction will take more than 5 years. Sec. 3(q).