Wealthy developers and influential zoning attorneys seeking to influence the location, size and amount of future development in Washington have joined citizen planning committees that will recommend detailed master plans for growth in the city's eight wards.
Last week when D.C. Mayor Marion Barry announced the names of the 350 persons who would serve on the eight ward committees the list included such unexpected members as parking magnates Dominic F. Antonelli and Leonard (Bud) Doggett, Charles Bresler, the major developer in Southwest; apartment and office building owner Raymond Howar, and the city's two leading zoning attorneys, Whayne S. Quinn and J. Kirkwood White.
Edward Hoffman, chairman of the board for Woodward & Lothrop department stores, and Walter Lewis, former head of the city's Zoning Commission who now works with the law firm of Linowes and Blocker, are also committee members.
The presence of such major representatives of the business community is the latest indication of the growing power of neighborhood groups that have successfully fought development plans in their communities.
Increased citizen participation in zoning matters "did have a lot to do with why the business community is getting involved in these committees," said White, who lives in Ward 3 and will serve on that committee.
"I think the business community is recognizing that they actually gained something from meeting with citizen groups and listening to what they have to say," he said. " . . . This time the business community said to themselves, 'Hey, we've got to get involved and really listen to these citizen groups."
Quinn, another Ward 3 resident and committee member said, "I live in Ward 3 and we his law firm represent a lot of businessmen in Ward 3 so I felt it was necessary to serve on the committee.
"I think it's important for the people on those committees to not express just personal views, but to talk about what will be good for all the people of the District."
Last year the D.C. City Council passed a very generalized land-use master plan to guide development in the city until the turn of the century. But the council, under pressure from neighborhood groups, decided to leave the hard decisions of exactly where development should take place, how much should take place and its size, to be hammered out by citizens in each ward.
The committees have until March to produce the proposed land-use plans that they will recommend to the City Council for their wards. The proposed ward plans will include future land use, economic development, housing, transportation, public facilities, historic preservation, urban design and enviornmental issues, as well as zoning and legislative actions needed to implement the plans in each ward.
Establishing the advisory committees has not been as easy task, according to Fred Greene, director of the city's Office of Planning and Development.
"We contacted over 300 community groups, businessmen, ANCs Advisory Neighborhood Commissions , church leaders, and just regular citizens -- you name it, we talked to them -- and asked for nominations for these committees," Greene said.
His office received 575 nominations. The mayor, City Council members and other city officials then whittled down the list and appointed committees ranging from 32 to 58 members for each ward.
The committees will meet once a month beginning in December. "They may meet twice a month, and as the committees break into subcommittees they'll be meeting more," Greene said.
"We need them business leaders because I think in the past there has been a separation in terms of points of views between developers and zoning attorneys and the community," said Greene, "and that's why we wanted to bring them together this time."
Raymond Howar, president of Howar Properties and a member of the Ward 1 committee, said, "I've lived in Kalorama for eight years and I'm a native of the District . . . . My fellow neighbors asked me to sit on this committee and I'll be happy to do it."
He added that developers "have an expertise that most residents don't have and we certainly want to protect the neighborhoods we live in from bad zoning and bad planning. Personally that's why I'm getting involved." Howar is president of the Sheridan-Kalorama Citizens Council and has built six houses in the Kalorama area.
Stanley Mayes, a Ward 1 ANC commissioner and member of the Ward 1 planning committee, said he welcomes the business leaders.
"I think that it's a positive thing overall because I think that the kinds of relationships that community activists have had with developers and other entrepreneurs in the past has been on an adversial basis," he said. "It's a chance for working-class people to talk directly with developers and try to understand their perspective and also for developers to understand the citizens. I'm frankly surprised that some of the business people would come forth like this."
Some of the business representatives are not city residents, such as Antonelli, who has an office downtown but who lives in Potomac. "I'd say 90 percent of the committee members are District residents," Greene said.
"We tried to get D.C. citizens except in the business community where we sort of lacked that standard," he said.
Public hearings will be held on the draft plans then final versions prepared for presentation to the City Council next fall.