District planning officials have presented Mayor Marion Barry with a final draft of the city's proposed comprehensive land use plan after months of delays caused by community groups who criticized the plan for having inadequate safeguards against further commercial encroachment on residential neighborhoods.
Representatives of various neighborhood groups said yesterday that the plan still has insufficient protections against commercial development, and they repeated earlier objections that city planning officials failed to permit sufficient citizen participation in shaping the document.
"The community is still being shortchanged in terms of adequate involvement and access to a very major document," said William Washburn III, the chairman of the Citizens Planning Coalition, which will hold a news conference today to further outline its criticisms.
Planning officials said citizen groups were given ample time to influence the draft.
The comprehensive land-use proposal is part of an overall comprehensive plan for the entire city that will chart commercial and residential development here for the next 20 years and help shape policies for transportation, housing, environmental protection and historical preservation.
The city has operated without a development master plan since the Home Rule Charter was adopted in 1973.
John (Kirk) White, a leading zoning attorney, comparing the latest version of the plan to an earlier staff draft released last October, said the new plan is a "much improved document." White said the current version gives greater emphasis to strategies for enhancing economic development in the city, particularly at selected Metro stations.
After Barry completes his review, which could include his recommendations for further revisions, the proposal will be submitted in early September to the City Council, which is expected to hold extensive public hearings before adopting the plan.
Carole Baker, a spokeswoman for the planning office, said yesterday that the city has solicited and received extensive comments from citizens and neighborhood groups. Baker said the city delayed sending the document to the mayor in order to increase the time citizens had to review the staff draft.
The final draft sent to the mayor has not been released publicly. Copies were given to members of three committees of neighborhood, business and professional planning representatives who have been advising the planning staff since March on the earlier version of the proposed plan. Committee members had one week to review the final draft before it went to the mayor. Representatives of the groups were given an additional week to submit comments after the plan went to the mayor.
"In that short a time period, I did not attempt to come up with any definitive critique of it," said Robert McFadden, a committee member and chairman of the Wisconsin Avenue Corridor Committee. "It leaves a lot of questions unanswered, particularly in terms of how it is implemented."
William Middleton, a Dupont Circle Citizens Association member, said the final draft does not include specific protections his group was seeking to block further commercial encroachment into Dupont Circle residential areas. He said his group will now ask the council to include the safeguards it is seeking.