Parties agree to continue negotiating throughout summer zoning approval process

A seamless process for the Hoffman-Madison Waterfront team toward a first quarter 2013 construction start was not in the cards at the June Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) meeting. The ANC voted to oppose the Planned Unit Development (PUD) submitted by the Southwest Waterfront developers for the first phase of their billion-dollar project.

ANC 6D representatives cited a host of unresolved issues, including a glaring lack of feedback from the Deputy Mayor’s office and the District Department of Transportation.  Information from these last two District entities is needed to clarify and resolve two pressing issues in the community, namely the fate of the live-aboard boaters at Gangplank Marina and the future plan for buses, a longstanding neighborhood annoyance.

While citing the overwhelming positive negotiations with the development team, ANC 6D chair Andy Litsky proposed the opposition resolution. Litsky also noted that commission did not have the proper time to review all of the information submitted to them by the developers before the June 11 meeting.

To comply with District law, the developer must present a PUD to the Zoning Commission for this mammoth project in order to secure the zoning variances that are required for construction.  The PUD was submitted in two parts.  The first part of the PUD (Stage I), which covered land usage and general layout, received a positive vote from ANC and subsequently received zoning approval last year.

A second PUD (Stage II), with more detail regarding the actual buildings, the design of public spaces and which covers the first phase of construction, was the subject of the ANC vote.  This second stage, first phase PUD pertains mainly to construction along the northernmost portion of the Waterfront.

The ANC’s vote is required by District law for presentation of the PUD to the Zoning Commission in a public hearing.  Because of the size of the Wharf project, the hearing will be divided into four parts, the first of which is scheduled for June 28.

Shawn Seaman, vice president with PN Hoffman, expressed his hope that ongoing negotiations will resolve the issues of live-aboards during the construction period and transitioning into the new waterfront.  He cited that fact that the 2008 Land Disposition Agreement with the District obligates Hoffman-Madison to provide slips for the live-aboards, thereby effectively eliminating any possibility of their displacement from the community.  According to Seaman, “The same commitment is in the final Zoning Commission Order of the Stage I PUD approved last year.”

Since the first presentation of the Stage II PUD, the developers are continuing to make refinements to the construction plan and architecture.  Various agencies have provided comments, including the D.C. Fine Arts Commission.  The final version of the PUD, the one which will be submitted to Zoning, has been made available at the Southwest Library for community viewing.

Hoffman-Madison has made a comprehensive and organized effort to provide community input beyond that which is required by District law, according to Elinor Bacon, one of the development partners. The long list of initiatives includes a development advisory group and  residential advisory group; outreach to neighboring wards; ongoing collaboration with the ANC, Gangplank Marina and the Community Benefits Coordinating Council; various large-scale community presentations;  the charrette process for planning of the Waterfront; a construction management committee; and an accessibility committee for ADA compliance issues.

The start of construction of Phase I of the project is still on target for the first quarter of 2013, insisted Seaman, despite the ongoing negotiations to resolve remaining issues of concern.
Completion of this phase is anticipated in 2016.

Hoffman-Madison is committed to a continued presence in Southwest, Seaman said.  During the many years of construction of the three phases of the Wharf, the developers will be in Southwest in a variety of functions.  Interim uses of the site will continue. Construction issues will be coordinated by a management committee that will have community representation.  Future management of the completed development will be handled by a project association, not unlike the one at National Harbor, and Hoffman-Madison will play an active part in that association at least until the final build-out.

The role of ANC 6D in also ongoing.  As the primary community link to the District, the ANC will continue to negotiate with the developers to resolve issues, and possibly will reconsider the PUD proposal at its July meeting.  The ANC will also be called upon in the future to consider the Stage II second and third phase PUDs required to complete the huge Waterfront project.

–By Glenn Favreau

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