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GOVERNMENT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Office of the Corporation Counsel
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repealed by the Council.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
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.