The D.C. City Council gave preliminary approval yesterday to the issuance of $53 million in revenue bonds to finance construction of a sports center at American University and the university's planned acquisition of the nearby Immaculata Preparatory School complex.
The university's efforts to extend its classrooms and facilities to Immaculata, a Catholic girls school about a mile from the AU campus in Northwest Washington, has drawn fire from some community groups that argue the move would create congestion and parking problems for nearby residents.
Kwasi Holman, director of the D.C. Office of Business and Economic Development, informed the City Council by letter yesterday that the bonds cannot be issued unless the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment has approved the university's plans for acquiring and renovating Immaculata or there is reason to believe the board will grant the authority.
Also yesterday, the City Council tabled emergency legislation to appoint a study commission to advise the city on the construction of a proposed prison facility in the District.
City Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8), chairman of the Judiciary Committee and chief sponsor of the measure, withdrew it after council members began squabbling over the makeup of the panel.
Rolark's committee recommended the appointment of a 15-member commission, with seven of the members, including the commission chairman, appointed by Mayor Marion Barry; three appointed by Rolark; four appointed by the other members of the Judiciary Committee and one appointed by Council Chairman David A. Clarke.
However, council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6), argued that all 13 members of the City Council are entitled to appoint a member of the commission because of the seriousness of the deliberations on the site selection and design of a new prison.
The proposed tax-exempt revenue bonds for American University dominated council debate. City Council member Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3), who has taken the lead in trying to resolve a number of university-neighborhood disputes, urged approval of the bonds.
City Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), saying AU was asking the city to approve the bond issue without fully disclosing its plans for Immaculata, voted against the measure.
Immaculata, which has 560 students, has been operated by the Sisters of Providence for 80 years in buildings just west of Tenley Circle NW. Last October the order decided to close the school and sell the buildings to AU to pay for pensions and the medical care of its aging members.