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Residents "pleased" with D.C. United stadium plan changes, but still not fully on board

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ANC 6D still has concerns ahead of February 16 Zoning Commission vote

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At the conclusion of the December 14, 2016 Zoning Commission hearing for the proposed D.C. United stadium at Buzzard Point, Chairman Anthony Hood requested that United, the applicant in the Planned Unit Development to meet with  Advisory Neighborhood Committee 6D. The two sides met twice in January, once to discuss the environmental impact of stadium construction on the area's residents, and once to mesh out details about the transportation issues of building a stadium in just a few blocks from Nationals Park.

We now know ANC 6D’s take on those meetings, thanks to "ANC-6D Response to Post-Hearing Submission," a newly uploaded document on the PUD case log. While they ANC declared themselves pleased with two productive meetings with the team, they still harbor plenty of concerns ahead of February 16th's Zoning Commission meeting, in which the Commission is expected to vote on the stadium proposal.

After spelling out their agreements and disagreements with the team, the ANC wrapped up their response by stating:

ANC-6D appreciates that our Commissioners have had an additional opportunity to hold these discussions with the Applicant and hear the responses of the District Agencies to our stated concerns. That said, our ANC is not ready to fully embrace this plan until solutions can be found to the rather significant transportation challenges to and from the site.

We remain open to holding additional discussions with the Applicant and sitting down with DDOT, OP and DMPED in an attempt to resolve these challenges prior to the Commission Meeting on February 16, 2017.

First, the areas in which the ANC found common ground with the team. The ANC response says that they have completely vetted the team and BreatheDC, and are willing to agree with the team’s $50,000 contribution to BreatheDC. That money will go towards "the acquisition and distribution of air purifiers for impacted residents living nearby the construction site." The ANC states that the team has agreed to give BreatheDC the money immediately upon the signing of the agreement.

At the January 10th meeting, in which the ANC and the team discussed the transportation aspect of the stadium plan, the ANC came away with pleased that their was a preliminary Transportation Operations and Parking Plan in place. At the December 14th meeting, it was stated that the timing was too early for a plan that would inevitably change closer to the opening of the stadium, However, with a preliminary plan in place, it seems that the ANC now has some sort of physical plan to use in their discussions with the team.

The ANC was also happy with a discussion over possible river transportation to the stadium, which was mentioned at the last ZC meeting by Chairman Hood. Per the ANC’s response:

ANC-6D is pleased that the Applicant has had initial discussions with Potomac Riverboat Company as requested by the Chairman. During the intervening period, ANC-6D has met with the federal Department of Transportation to discuss an urban river transit grant that is currently available. Ultimately, ANC-6D hopes that those monies may be used to help provide the necessary infrastructure to enable our waterfront ANC to have proper docking facilities for vessels on the Anacostia at Buzzard Point as well as at Diamond Teague.

That said, the ANC still has some issues with the overall plan. From their January 5th meeting about the environmental impact of the stadium, while noting the United’s contribution to BreatheDC, the ANC, chaired by Andy Litsky, notes their disappointment by the lack of similar commitment from the city itself, or PEPCO/Exelon.

There are also still concerns from the ANC about the air quality from the potential construction at the Buzzard Point site. According to the ANC, the team’s air quality reports don’t "take into account the pre-existing conditions."

Of course they can’t take responsibility for other emissions, but the ANC continues to believe that District agencies have abrogated their larger responsibilities to the community in this regard. Fugitive dust, in particular, remains an abiding health hazard as construction happens all across Buzzard Point. Unless the city addresses Buzzard Point writ large, the problem will continue to be minimized on a site-by-site basis as extraordinary development continues to occur on one of the most polluted land masses in the District of Columbia.

The response also states that the Department of Energy and Environment should undertake their own air monitoring at Buzzard Point instead of just relying on the team’s reports. The DOEE was responsible for the air monitoring before giving the land to United for the stadium. The ANC also asks that more than four monitors are present at the stadium site to check the air quality, due to the size of the project. The environmental issues end by asking the team to check and bait traps for vermin more than twice a month, stating that "the rat population has increased significantly" in the area.

The transportation part of the stadium plan remains the biggest sticking point with ANC 6D. That was evident through the two Zoning Commission meetings last year, and continues to shine through in their latest response.

The ANC notes that while United will pay for Traffic Control Officers during events, they should also provide the funding for enforcement (e.g. towing services) during the same time. That enforcement would be a measure against "unpermitted on-street parking" in the surrounding blocks of the stadium itself.

ANC 6D also continued to question the agreement with the Washington Nationals to avoid having overlapping events at the two stadiums. The response notes that the Zoning Commission asked the team to update their status in working with the Nationals, in terms of event planning, including banning simultaneous events. However:

The ANC has seen no such update. This is of particular note since the 2017 schedules have already been announced and on three separate dates this year (May 13, August 26 and September 9) DC United and the Nats play on the same day. Since 2017 DC United play continues to occur at RFK, this is not problematic, but it does demonstrate the difficulty in getting both MLB and MLS to make appropriate arrangements. ANC-6D expects a proper strategy in place as well as clarifying written agreement as a requirement of their Certificate of Occupancy.

The actual number this year is four games, with the teams also sharing an August 12th home date. The Nats and Black-and-Red previously shared a home at RFK Stadium, and this year the Houston Dynamo and Houston Astros have sorted out a schedule in which the teams do not share a home date. Their stadiums are approximately the same distance from each other as Nats Park and the proposed Buzzard Point stadium.

Letters of Intent are also a subject of concern for the ANC, as they have not seen a list of parking spots that will be available to the team during game days. The Commission had requested signed LOIs for the different parking lots and spaces at the last meeting.

The ANC claims that their greatest concern with the whole of the stadium plan is "routing of traffic through the existing residential neighborhood." The thought from the ANC is that visitors to the stadium will use the neighborhood roads, bogging down streets that can’t sustain the traffic caused by a 19,000 seat stadium.

ANC-6D sees no justification for supporting any new vehicular traffic through the residential streets north of the stadium and requests that net-based way-finding strategies, physical signage and TCO placement be coordinated by DDOT and the Applicant to provide every assurance that vehicular traffic to the stadium will not be directed through north/south residential streets.

Minimizing traffic through the residential streets is supported by the Gorove/Slade September 16 report, which recommends "pedestrian and traffic barriers…to deter patrons from walking through the adjacent residential neighborhood" (p. 3). True barriers to allow access to residents but prevent Stadium-directed vehicular through-traffic should be implemented in conjunction with the TOPP.

In addition, the ANC insists that they must be present at future TOPP meetings, noting that they were party to similar meetings during the construction and planning of Nats Park. The ANC wrapped up their concerns about the stadium plan by touching on the amount of signage the team has proposed at the stadium, alleging that the team has gone back on their word about digital advertising signage.

Indeed, ANC-6D reminds the Commission that during ANC cross examination that the Applicant agreed that outside digital advertising signage would not be part of their PUD and that they understood that at some future date (indeed, the record will show that the Applicant stated "ten years" as a possibility of when they might reconsider) should they want to include it as an option that they would need to return to the Zoning Commission to amend their PUD. We find it extremely disturbing now, that in their posthearing report they completely abjure this very public declaration made on November 28, 2016 by the DC United Vice President of Development and Stadium Operations.

The ANC has left the door open to future meetings with the team to address concerns. However, the next Zoning Commission meeting is set for just over two weeks, leaving a small window of time for the concerns to be ironed out.

The recent upload also included another response from the ANC in which they replied to Office of Planning (OP) and Department of Transportation responses to ANC testimony. At the December 14th Zoning Commission hearing, the ANC - through Commissioner Andy Litsky - testified, laying out their concerns with the stadium plan. The OP and DDOT then provided responses to the testimony recently, prompting the ANC to reply in kind.

Below are those replies. The ANC makes it clear they still have major issues with what the OP and DDOT have said in relation to the stadium plan. It's important to note that these aren't issues with United's involvement on the building of the stadium; instead, they concern how the stadium will interact with the surrounding neighborhood.

The ANC's response included worries about the use of eminent domain to take away housing from residents in the neighborhood nearest the stadium site,  in addition to concerns about a traffic plan when construction on the Franklin Douglass Bridge begins, currently slated for 2019.

ANC 6D Reponse to Departments Post-Hearing by Steven Streff on Scribd