With considerable rhetoric and a certain flair, the residents of one of Washington's wealthiest neighborhoods have joined forces to oppose development of more than 100 new houses on the 25-acre Foxhall Road estate of former Vice President Nelson A. Rockfeller.
"What you're really talking about is a typical tract development, ticky-tacky houses in the $300,000 to $400,000 range," said real estate attorney Jeffry Dwyer, who lives nearby on Foxhall Road. "Any city architect would be aghast looking at this thing."
Dwyer and others have formed a new coalition for Planned Environmental Development to fight Rozansky and Kay Construction Co. which has obtained a $5.5 million contract on the estate and which, sources said, plans to settle on the property and begin construction of house within 90 day.
The coalition includes, among others, leaders of citizens' associations for the Foxhall. Palisades. Georgetown. Wesley Heights and Spring Valley areas. Ithas the cooperation of such prominent citizens as David Lloyd Kreeger, former chairman of Geico insurance company and president of both the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the National Symphony Kreeger lives on an estate on Foxhall Road not far from the Rockefeller property.
In a letter disclosed yesterday. Rockefeller appears to the offer to sell the property to the neighbors "or some other public-spirited organization." using an escape clause from his current sale contract. It was in clear yesterday how serious the apparent offer was, but coalition leaders said they cannot afford to buy the place anyway.
Tommy Jackson, an attorney and consultant in government marketing who lives a few blocks north of the Rockefeller property, said that he and other leaders of the new coaltion have yet decided whether to oppose the new development totally or simply to try to channel development efforts toward more "agreeable and tasteful" plans than those they've seen so far.
Dwyer accused Rozansky and Kay of a "suburban mentality" that wants to recreate a Dale City or Gaithersbury by erecting houses in "checkerboard fashion" in one of the city's lovelist residential areas.
"It really takes the typical suburban tract development in its worst aspect, which really basically decreased the quality of life in the suburbs, and (tries to) bring it into a very large tract iin the heart of a major city," said Dwyer. "It's almost . . . I don't want to use the word to use the word 'obsence,' but . . . it seems almost to be affront to the citizens of the District."
"That's idiotic," said a source close to the Rozansky and Kay firm. "How can you finds them desirable?They're only going to sell in that price range if they're tastefully done."
The firm had no comment on the issue. This was because, sources said, its contract with Rockefeller to purchase for $5.5 million the rolling, heavily treed estate contains a clause prohibiting public comment.
Rockefeller himself seemed to enter the fray yesterday with the disclosure by the new coalition ofa letter that Rockefeller wrote Oct. 10 to Stanley C. Lewis, president of North Foxhall Road Association.
Rockefeller wrote that he understood Lewis' feelings, was "very touched" by learning how much the estate had meant to Lewis, and regretted that "time have changed." He added that his sale contract contains a clause still permitting "any other group" to make a cash offer.
"If a group of neighbors or some other public-spirited organization wanted to get together to buy the property, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to know it was in such good hands," Rockefeller ended his letter.
Asked yesterday what this meant, Rockefeller spokesman Hugh Morrow said that, unless certain conditions in the current contract are waived or satisfied, "We're free to entertain a better offer should one coming come along."
"That explanation is untrue," said a source close to Rozansky and Kay. This source said his understanding was that if a better offer were made, Rozansky and Kay could still cinch their deal for the original $5.5 million by setting a settlement date within 21 days.
The firm plans to spend a total of about $34 million developing about 100 houses built at the rate of 20 per year for five years, source said. The sources said financing is coming from a Washington and a New York bank, and denied that there was any validity to rumors among citizens that Saudi Arabian money may be involved.
A source close to the firm, which is going forward with engineering studies of the site and architectural plans, said that the property had been desirable because it was already zoned for development and that more than 100 houses could be built there "as a matter of right with no adjustments or zoning or public hearings or anything like that."
City officials have indicated that, aside from come "administrative opportunities" to control environmental plans for slopes and vegetation, access by streets and some other matters, there probably is little that could be done to stop the development or seriously hinder it.
Nevertheless, coalition leaders say they plan a broad legal, political and publicity effort that will draw on modern view of proper urban and environmental development. They hope to convince the city that it must be strict in regulating changes that may affect health, terrain, water drainage, traffic flow and pollution.
"The initial question is what control the District has over large tract subdivisions," said Peter B. Work, an attorney who is leading a high-powered legal group of area residents in the coalition. He said his group will insure that the developers adhere rigidly to legal standards in obtaining the necessary building and other permits.
Coalition leader Jackson said the group's efforts would not be confined to the one area of the city. "It's intended to be in general an approach to citywide development which is starting to take place at an alarming rate with very little apparent control and forethought," he said.
Alan Kay, of the development firm, visited several area districts with preliminary plans in an effort to pacify them, residents said. They said the plans showed the possibility of 105, 109 or 131 houses on the property.
"When I was somewhat critical of the plans, he said they were premliminary plans and nothing's 100 per cent definite yet," said Christian Hohenlohe, a Foxhall Road residents who is an attorney in the Smithsonian Institution. "He didn't indicate that there would be less than 105 or 109 houses. He was clearly talking about something over 100 and I indicated that I was equally appalled by 105 or 131."
"He spread his plans there on the table and he indicated they'd be nice houses and so forth and so on," said another Foxhall Road resident who asked not to be identified. "He seemed to want to be cooperative but, on the other hand, if you put it very bluntly, very coldly, he was probably trying to avoid opposition. You see what I mean? It was a slick move." CAPTION: Picture 1, NELSON A. ROCKEFELLER . . . $5.5 million property; Picture 2, The Rockefeller home on Foxhall Road, embroiled in controversy over subdivision plans, 1974 photo - The Washington Post