Georgetown residents questioned federal and local government officials about the Georgetown Waterfront Task Force draft plan at a town meeting last week at Christ Episcopal Church.
More than 250 persons attended the gathering, sponsored by the Citizens Association of Georgetown and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3-A.
David Childs, chairman of the National Capital Planning Commission and chairman of the task force, assured residents that the task force is "committed" to making most of the waterfront into a park.
Leaflets prepared by the National Capital Planning Commission and passed out at the meeting said, "The task force consensus is that the area immediately adjacent to the river from Rock Creek to Key Bridge should be largely developed as a national park to serve Georgetown, the District and the nation as an addition to existing park holdings in the area. It was also agreed that a triangular area in the northeastern portion of the aterfront (next to the Whitehurst Freeway, between Wisconsin Avenue and Rock Creek) should be reserved for appropriate development, largely for residential purposes."
The proposal calls for the park to encompass 16 acres and the developed portion of the waterfront to cover four acres.
Childs said the plan is for "mixed use" of the developed area with "no less 60 percent of the potential floor space to be used for residential purposes and no more than 15 percent for retail use." A maximum of 25 percent could be used for offices. Proposed building heights would range from 30 to 60 feet. The heights allowed under current zoning are from 60 to 90 feet.
The public waterfront park would be under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, part of the Department of the Interior, and would extend along the Potomac River's edge for an average of 160 feet inland and west along the Rock Creek bank for 60 feet inland.
Robert Mendelsohn, a special assistant to Secretary of the Interiro Cecil Andrus, said proposals call for the park to be devoted to "passive activities" and include facilities such as "benches, jogging and bike paths, a boat landing or dock area and some light food service. . ."
"There will be public participation in the park planning process," he added.
Mendelsohn pointed out that "the mixed park and development proposal would cost the city very little for land acquisition and development costs would be about $13 million."
The third member of the panel, James Gibson, director of the District Office of Planning and Development, reminded citizens that a critical issue for the city is the need to strengthen the tax base. "I was concerned that the result (of the task force plan) be a predominance of park along the waterfront," Gibson said, but added that, "Our need for revenue . . . means that we have to look for reasonable development."
Gibson estimated that development near the waterfront would generate$1 to $2 million a year in revenue for the city. The lower figure represents income if the construction is primarily for residences. The higher amount would be taken in if 40 percent of the development were commercial, the maximum amount that would be allowed under the task force plan.
The four acres of proposed development would take place on two tracts of land now privately owned by Inland Steel Corp. and Chessie Resources, Inc.
Asked how the city would acquire the privately owned land, Gibson said, "essentially there would be a three-way swap. The city would get permission from the highway department to trade the city property adjacent to the northern portion of Inland's property for the southern portion of the property. This is inherent in the guidelines."
While some neighborhood activists approve the task force plan for limited development, others want the entire waterfront area to become a park. Katherine Sullivan, a board member of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, said she wants "the federal government (to) acquire Inland and Chessie's property for recreational use," at a costof more than $23 million.