Mayor Marion Barry said yesterday that he issued permits to build two roads to provide better access to a $40 million office and retail complex being built on upper Wisconsin Avenue NW, despite growing opposition to the project from area residents.
Joel Odum, president of the Tenley and Cleveland Park Emergency Committee, a group organized to fight the roads and the complex, said yesterday that Barry had assured him Thursday night that the permits would not be issued until he had a chance to meet "face to face" with residents.
However, in a statement released yesterday, Barry said his administration had issued the road permits on Wednesday.
He added that he was "concerned about the impact of this roadway on any future extension of Glover-Archbold Park."
One of the planned roads would run south from Van Ness Street, cutting through the northern entrance to the park. That land is owned by the city but is maintained by the National Park Service and used as parkland.
In announcing the issuance of the permits yesterday, Barry said plans for one of the roads have been altered to "allow 54 feet to remain for park access."
Nearly 150 residents of Ward 3 in Northwest Washington, including Joan Mondale, wife of former vice president Walter F. Mondale, attended a meeting Wednesday night sponsored by several citizens groups to discuss ways to fight the project. The project plans call for six movie theaters.
"I am very concerned that this project will upset the residential tone of the neighborhood . . . . This whole thing is so horrible," Joan Mondale said.
Mondale and her husband have owned a house on Lowell Street NW in Cleveland Park since 1967. She said she intends to "make some phone calls, give some money and whatever else I can do to help" stop construction of the project and roads.
She said that her husband was on a fishing trip, "but he's going to hear all about this at the dinner table when he gets back. Believe me, he's going to get an earful. I'm sure he'll be concerned."
The road permits were first issued by the city early this year. However, on Feb. 8 Barry suspended them for 30 days in order to give neighbors time to comment.
He acted a day after 40 persons staged a protest at the building site, previously occupied by the Johnson Flower Center.
Many residents of the area contend that they were not given proper notice by the city before building permits were issued to the developers, the Donohoe Cos. and Holladay Corp.
They also claim the project does not conform to the city's comprehensive land use plan.
Five of the six Advisory Neighborhood Commissions in Ward 3 have formally opposed the project and roads.
The most recent building permit was issued to the developers on Feb. 19, the day after city officials, the developers and residents met to air their differences.
Hampton Cross, the city's building and land regulation administrator, told the residents at the time that he had not known of the citizens' objections to the building before that meeting.
On March 20, area residents filed suit in D.C. Superior Court to seek an injunction to stop the building construction, but a judge denied the request April 21. The residents have appealed the decision.
The neighbors have also appealed the Board of Zoning Adjustment's decision to issue three building permits for the project. A special hearing on the appeal will be held May 28. More than $10,000 has been raised by the Tenley and Cleveland Park Emergency Committee since it was formed in February.
Geoffrey Gitner, attorney for the citizens committee, said the group will legally challenge the reissuance of the road permits.
"We're hoping to have the complex scaled back," Joan Mondale explained. "This area is zoned for moderate commercial building. This project is not moderate, it's extreme."
Whayne Quin, a lawyer representing the developers, said, "As a matter of law the developers are entitled to the road permits . . . .
"The law is that a person should have access to an abutting street, otherwise people wouldn't have access to get out of their front door."