Representatives of D.C. citizens groups, who have maintained that the city has been rushing adoption of a comprehensive land-use plan, called yesterday for Mayor Marion Barry to schedule additional public hearings on the proposed plan before it is submitted to the City Council for approval.
The request for more public comment came as the D.C. Planning Office began its final round of scheduled public hearings on the proposal last night in the City Council chambers. About 100 people had signed up to testify at the hearings, which will be resumed Wednesday at 7 p.m. and may be extended to Thursday if more time is needed, city officials said.
The plan will be the blueprint for residential and commercial development in the city for the next 20 years and will influence zoning and other government decisions that control the character and growth of neighborhoods. It will be the city's first master development plan since the Home Rule Charter was adopted in 1973.
Neighborhood groups, already upset because they felt the city shut them out of the process that led to the 332-page draft that was unveiled last year, said yesterday that there should be further public hearings in mid-July after city planning officials complete a revised draft.
They also repeated earlier criticisms that key parts of the draft, such as segements on historic preservation, urban design and how the proposal will be implemented, have either not yet been made public or were only recently released.
"It's hard for citizens to give a complete and informed response when the document is not complete," said Carol Currie, chairman of the Citizens Planning Coalition.
Representatives of the neighborhood groups also said they were concerned that the city was trying to keep the plan vague, which they fear will result in inadequate safeguards against further commercial encroachment on residential areas.
D.C. planing director John H. McKoy said citizens will have a full opportunity to offer changes to the plan after it is submitted to the City Council, which will hold extensive public hearings. McKoy said the planning office has made a major effort to get citizen comments, and "we need to cut it off at some point."
Barry had originally planned to send the final draft to the council in July, but last month he agreed to delay submitting it until September in order to give citizens more time to review it. Citizens also asked for a detailed map to go along with the plan, which the administration agreed to provide.
McKoy said the planning staff will seek comments on the revised draft in July from a 50-member citizen advisory panel working with the staff. In addition, he said, citizens will have until July 20 to submit written comments on the historic preservation and urban design segments, which were released later than expected.