City Desk

Zoning Commission Delays Voting on Contentious McMillan Park Plans

The decades-long drama over the redevelopment of McMillan Sand Filtration Center did not get any closer to reaching a conclusion Monday night. The D.C. Zoning Commission was slated to make a zoning decision on the 25-acre site, but instead opted to delay its vote until its Sept. 29. meeting so it could learn more about the proposed plans.

In front of a packed audience—by zoning commission meeting standards, anyway—Commission Chair Anthony Hood said, "This is too important...Our goal is to do this as right as possible."

The city purchased the McMillan site along North Capitol Street more than 25 years ago with the intention of developing it into a mixed-use community. But the languishing site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has remained empty and blocked off from the public. 

The D.C. government selected Vision McMillan Partners to develop the site years ago, but last night the five members on the zoning commission weren't completely won over by the proposal and asked developers to tighten up their plans. Their plans call for 30,000 square-feet of "neighborhood-serving" retail, 531 apartment units, 146 town houses, a 17,000 square-foot community center with a pool, a 50,000 square foot grocery store, and more than 10 acres of park space. Most disconcerting to the Zoning Commission, the proposal also calls for a 130-foot-tall, or a 10-story, medical office building. (In all, VMP says 41 percent of the McMillan site will be parks and open space.)

The plans have divided the community, with two factions forming: Save McMillan Park and Create McMillan Park. Save McMillan wants the shuttered site to be transformed into a "great metropolitan park" while Create McMillan wants to develop the land. Each party had representatives present at Monday's meeting wearing pins and other paraphernalia in support of their causes.

Hood said the Zoning Commission can only review what's given to it, adding that no one has proposed to the body using McMillan Park as a completely green space. VMP's proposal is what the commission was presented with, so that's the plan it will vote on.

The Commission requested that Vision McMillan Partners resubmit plans with more specific ways it would implement traffic-mitigating techniques in the area surrounding the property. It also wanted to see what the plans would look like if the medical office building was scaled back. "I'm a little uncomfortable that one part of the medical building is 130 feet," Commissioner Peter May said. "I would be more comfortable with 110 feet."

Under the plan, VMP will pay various community groups  for the inconveniences of the construction. The commission is seeking more concrete details on how VMP will divvy up these funds and how the money will be distributed.  Representatives from VMP said it could address all of these concerns in time for the commission's September meeting.

"It will take us some time," Hood said of the ongoing process.

Photo by David Monack (Wikimedia Commons)

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