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Corporation Counsel’s Memorandum:
US Reservation 13 and the Office of Planning’s Master Plan
April 4, 2002




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TO: Jon Fernandez
Executive Office of the Mayor

FROM: Charles F. Barbera
Deputy Corporation Counsel

DATE: April 4, 2002

SUBJECT: U.S. Reservation 13 and the Office of Planning's Master Plan

You requested legal advice earlier today with respect to the Council of the District of Columbia's authority as it relates to the Master Plan prepared by the District's Office of Planning for the proposed development of U.S. Reservation 13 (the "Property"). The Master Plan was prepared in conjunction with a proposed transfer of jurisdiction of the Property from the federal government to the District. The Council has approved acceptance of the transfer of jurisdiction by resolution as required by D.C. Code § 10-111. In a nutshell, it is my view that the Master Plan has no legal effect or significance and that the Council does not have the legal authority to accept, reject or modify that plan.

Home Rule Act § 423(a) provides that "the Mayor shall be the central planning agency for the District." Home Rule Act § 492(a) vests the Zoning Commission with exclusive authority to amend the zoning regulations of the District of Columbia. Under § 423(b), the Council's role in the planning process is limited to approval of a comprehensive plan submitted by the Mayor. Such a comprehensive plan is approved and in existence. These are Charter provisions, hence they may not be amended or repealed by the Council.

The informal submission of the Office of Planning's Master Plan to the Council cannot, in my view, be interpreted by the Council as a submission of a "small area action plan for selected geographical areas" as described under D.C. Code § 1-303.64. The procedure for submission of a small area action plan includes publication of a notice by the Mayor to the affected Advisory Neighborhood Commission; a public hearing held by the Mayor after such publication and; transmission of a resolution by the Mayor to the Council for review, with an attached copy of the Mayor's public hearing records. I am not aware that such procedures have been followed.

It appears that the Master Plan issue has been confused with the unrelated fiscal year 2002 District appropriations bill's provision that "no funds may be expended to renovate, rehabilitate or construct any facility within the boundaries of census tract 68.04 for any purpose associated with the D.C. Department of Corrections, the CSOSA, or the federal Bureau of Prisons unit until March 31. 2002 or until such time as the Mayor shall present to the Council for its approval a plan for the development of census tract 68.04 south of East Capitol Street. S.E., and the housing of any misdemeanants, felons, ex-offenders, or persons awaiting trial within the District of Columbia, whichever occurs earlier. (emphasis added) March 31, 2002 has passed, hence this provision is moot and the Mayor is no longer obligated to present a plan to the Council in order to spend funds in this fiscal year.

It should be noted that the Council has some limited ability to exercise control over the use of the Property, such as exempting the Property from the zoning regulations, or attempting to amend the Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978 to designate the Property or particular parts of the Property as historic landmarks.

Please call me at 442-9834 if you have any questions.

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