The City Council finance and revenue committee recommended yesterday that the District government reject a plan to swap city land for the vacant Anthony Bowen YMCA. The committee also said the tax-exempt Metropolitan Washington YMCA should be made to pay $11,700 yearly property taxes on the Bowen building while it remains vacant.
The committee, chaired by John A. Wilson, D-Ward 1, said it opposed a land swap proposed by former City Council chairman Sterling Tucker primarily because the city cannot afford to give away land.
The swap, in which the city would take over Bowen and give the YMCA city-owned land in exchange, was a key element in Tucker's plan, drafted at Mayor Marion Barry's request in an effort to reopen the building, which closed Feb. 22.
The committee does not have jurisdiction over land transactions, but its action yesterday suggested the swap would have difficulty in the full council, which would have to approve any land transfer.
By a 4-to-0 vote, the committee adopted a report on the Bowen closing that criticizes the YMCA for neglecting the Bowen building. It also recommends that the city apply for a federal Urban Development Action Grant to help renovate the 70-year-old facility in Shaw. Estimates of the cost of that job have ranged from $500,000 to $3.5 million, and the UDAG grant could be used to pay roughly one-third of the expense, the committee said.
Annette Samuels, a spokesman for Barry, said yesterday she thought the chance of winning such a grant is slim.
The committee, which has responsibility for tax-related matters, said it considered recommending that the YMCA lose its $175,000 yearly tax exemption on its $8.5 million headquarters at 1711 Rhode Island Ave. NW. "Given the lack of memberships for youth, the high cost of annual memberships and the type of facilities available," the committee said, it has "deep concern" that the downtown Y no longer deserves tax exemption.
But the committee stopped short of that step, saying that such an action probably would lead to a court challenge and opposition from Congress and would do nothing to speed the reopening of Bowen.
Thomas B. Hargrave Jr., president of the Metropolitan YMCA, said yesterday he was "very unhappy" with the report and said he hoped the city would nonetheless approve the land swap.