For more than a year, versions of a District land-use plan have been rejected, disparaged and dismembered by community groups seeking to protect neighborhoods and strengthen government planning policies designed to chart commercial and residential development for the city.
As a result, the City Council gave preliminary approval to a plan on Tuesday that incorporates major recommendations made by community groups.
Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) said, "Community input is so vastly interwoven in the document that it is a true cooperative project."
The land-use element is the last section of the city's comprehensive plan to be adopted by the council. It will guide development in the city for the next 20 years. It became the most controversial section because community groups feared that the plan was too vague and offered too few protections against commercial encroachment on residential areas.
While some community groups stopped short of claiming a victory, the major changes indicate that their lobbying efforts were successful. Changes made by the council included:
* Requiring the mayor to develop detailed plans for each of the city's eight wards within one year and to hold public hearings on the plans.
* Enacting maps that depict policies in the land-use element. Some residents favored having the maps to ensure that the policies would be followed by the city's Zoning Commission. Barry argued against the maps, saying that the council and Congress would have to approve all map changes.
* Classified the areas in which the Sheraton Washington, Shoreham and Washington Hilton hotels are located as residential rather than commercial. Residents had maintained that a commercial designation would diminish the control that residents have over what happens to their neighborhoods.
Ann Hargrove, a member of the 500-member D.C. Planning Coalition that vigorously opposed much in the plan, said that the council action strengthened the plan and paved the way for residents to suggest further changes when the ward plans are developed.
While a draft of the land-use plan contained sections sought by special-interest groups, council member John Wilson (D-Ward 2) succeeded in getting the council to drop some of them.
The council passed Wilson's amendments to delete language that recognized the contributions and encourage the growth of hotels in the District and referred to the proposed site for an international trade center in Southwest Washington as a "special treatment" area.
Wilson said the reference to hotels was an "open invitation" for the Zoning Commission to allow hotels to be built on residential property. He also said that mere mention of the trade center, which is opposed by some neighborhood groups, would give the impression that the council favored the center.
Wilson, however, encountered great difficulty when he tried to delete language that said the city will recognize "the positive contributions of religious establishments to neighborhood life and accommodate the land use needs of religious establishments through appropriate regulations."
Some council members said that the statement appeared to favor the expansion of neighborhood groups.
But council member Jerry A. Moore Jr. (R-At-Large), who is a Baptist minister, called the language harmless and said that groups, preservationists in particular, that fight the expansion of neighborhood churches are practicing "another form of segregation" that forces some churches to move.
Moore asked for a roll-call vote and challenged other council members to let church members see that they were unwilling to recognize churches.
After a compromise, the council voted to include language that recognizes the contribution of churches.
Despite the controversy surrounding the land-use plan, city officials stress that the plan is merely a guide and does not freeze in place any specific land uses.