The Chessie railroad has told the District government it will not proceed with residential or commercial development of its property in the Palisades area of the city "in the foreseeable future," according to a statement issued yesterday by City Council Member Polly Shackleton.
The land is part of the rail line that until earlier this year was used to deliver coal to the General Services Administration's Georgetown heating plant at 29th and K streets NW, which supplies heat to 120 federal buildings.
Coal has been trucked from Bladensburg along New York Avenue and K Street NW to the Georgetown plant for the past several months, a delivery system that will become permanent when the Chessie abandons the rail line, a railroad spokesman said yesterday. He said the company plans to ask the Interstate Commerce Commission soon for permission to abandon the line.
Residents near the nearly four acres of railroad land in the Palisades have feared the Chessie company will build houses or office buildings on the property, which railroad officials have said they regard as most valuable for development. A spokesman for CSX Corp., parent company of the Chessie Systems Railroad, said he could not define how long the "foreseeable future" might be.
City and CSX officials reached an "agreement in principle" last week that also included a Chessie pledge to "transfer" the portion of the railroad right of way that runs through the C&O Canal National Historic Park from Arizona Avenue to Georgetown, according to Shackleton.
The CSX spokesman said the company is willing to transfer the property in one of three ways: by selling it to the National Park Service, by trading it for park service property elsewhere, or through purchase of the property by a third party who then would make the exchange with the park service.
Two CSX officials made the same proposals during a meeting with local park service representatives early this month, according to an agency official. The difference in last week's agreement is that the Chessie is willing to discuss sale or trade of only the part of property within the C&O Canal park, the CSX spokesman said. Until last week, the railroad was willing only to exchange or sell to the park service all of its property within the District of Columbia, he said.
"We're still willing to sell the whole thing to the park service, but we also determined that they can't afford it, so we're willing to split it off at Arizona Avenue," he said. Eventually, CSX must get "fair market value" for its D.C. property, he added.