A majority of the D.C. City Council yesterday called on Mayor Marion Barry to delay submitting the proposed comprehensive land-use plan to the council until at least the fall in an effort to increase community groups' influence over the final draft.
"The need for a comprehensive plan is undeniable," said council member John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2). But "the need for a plan that is thoroughly thought out is just as undeniable," Wilson said in remarks to about 100 people at a citizen-sponsored conference on the proposal yesterday at the District Building.
Since the proposed plan was unveiled last October, neighborhood groups have complained that city officials shut them out of the drafting process and that the city was moving too quickly to enact it.
Community activists in Wilson's ward have been among the most vocal in attacking the draft and have argued that it provides inadequate protections against further commercial encroachment in prime neighborhoods near downtown such as Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom.
Two council members whose wards have experienced limited commercial development and include some of the city's poorest areas, H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7) and Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8), said they also support a postponement. "Since this will be a road map we should follow for the next 20 years, a short time delay should not be a major element of concern," Crawford said.
City officials intend to submit the final draft to the council for adoption by July 1--another reason, council members said, to postpone the deadline until at least September because the council's summer recess begins July 15.
A major criticism of the city planning staff's draft is that two key elements--sections on historic preservation and the design of the city's streets, buildings and landscape--have not been made public.
John (Skip) McCoy, director of the city's planning office, said yesterday that both segments are expected to be released in the next two weeks.
"We've being trying throughout this process to get as much input from as many different sources as possible," McCoy said, adding that the city has already granted two extensions to the public comment period, which was originally scheduled to end in January.
City Council Chairman David A. Clarke declined to take a position on a possible delay, saying that it should be left up to Barry. Council members Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) and Frank Smith (D-Ward 1) said they were not yet sure a delay was needed.
Others supporting the postponement are council members William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5), Hilda H. Mason (Statehood At Large), Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large) and John Ray (D-At Large).