Tuesday, July 21, 2009

D.C Baseball Academy Land Transfer In Limbo

"It’s hard not to feel frustration because we are moving forward in almost every other way," stated Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, The Chair of The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. "But until we get this land transfer, we really can’t make the strides we would otherwise be making."

Since the July 23rd, 2008 announcement that Our Washington Nationals and The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation along with financial and land acquisition assistance from The District of Columbia Government would build a D.C Baseball Academy at Ft. Dupont Park --all the pieces to the puzzle have come together--financially and architecturally, everything except for one important part. The land transfer of 15 Acres of Federal Government Owned Property in Ward 7 (a plan that also would include an expansion of The Ft. Dupont Ice Arena) has not taken place to The D.C. Government. Politics, along with an environmental lawsuit filing has delayed the handover.

Before The District of Columbia Government could even take possession of the land. Before The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation could even begin building the proposed academy--an environmental assessment had to take place. The environmental impact of the development site in which the concluded October 2008 report stated "a finding of no significant impact" on the surrounding environment.

Yet, that study has come under fire. A local group--The Maryland Native Plant Society, along with a D.C. resident, has filed a lawsuit against The National Park Service--claiming the environmental assessment was not complete and would destroy local native plant habitat. At the same time, a broad reversion clause that would allow The National Park Service to revert the Ft. Dupont land site back to The Federal Government's holdings has broken down discussions between The Department Of The Interior/National Park Service and The District of Columbia.

“Their concern (Maryland Native Plant Society) is that when The National Park Service looked at the plans to transfer the land and build the baseball academy and expand the ice skating rink—the environmental analysis did not do any environmental assessment of anything outside of the footprint of the actual transfer," said Jamie Pleune--Staff Attorney for The Institute for Public Representation at The Georgetown University Law Center--which is handling this case for the plaintiffs. "It (the environmental assessment) doesn’t look at what the impact will be on the edge of the land transfer. And that is of particular concern because plans show they will build baseball fields right up to the edge of the forest.......and if the edge of the forest is harmed, the impact to the native forest community which extends further into the forest would probably wipe out the small community that is along the edge of the forest.”

Additionally, The District Of Columbia Government is upset over this reversion clause. A provision which "calls for the return of the property to the Park Service if there is noncompliance on many requirements that have nothing to do with the mandate that the land be used for recreation -- conditions related to parking access, green building standards and naming rights..." D.C. Council Chair--Vincent Gray--recently wrote an editorial in The Washington Post decrying The National Park Service's clause as delaying and potentially harming educational and recreational opportunities for District youths.

Gayle Hazlewood, Superintendent National Capital Parks East--stated in a phone conversation--The National Park Service will not comment on these issues due to the pending lawsuit. But that hasn't kept Council Chair Vincent Gray from trying to make headway. On July 7th, Chairman Gray met with Robert Stanton, The Deputy Assistant Director of The Department of Interior. His goal, to jump start the delayed proceedings--find a way to make The D.C. Baseball Academy happen.

Unfortunately, Chairman Gray's meeting with Mr. Stanton did not go well. Sources explaining to Nats320 that Mr. Gray left frustrated and disappointed that The Department of Interior and The Nationals Park Service will not play ball as the lawsuit works in way through the legal process. The National Park Service has until August 10th to officially reply to the legal filing.

Already in the D.C. Government proposed budget for FY 2010 to be sent to Capitol Hill for approval--Chairman Gray has appropriated $8.3 million in additional local capital funding authority for the youth baseball academy, on top of the $2 million in previously approved District government capital authority for this project. A total of $10.3 million in capital funds--$100,000 of which has been spent thus far -- on the environmental assessment for the transfer at Fort Dupont. Another $1 million in previously approved, unrestricted local funds are also available for the baseball academy project, and are parked by the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development in an account at the Children's and Youth Investment Trust Corporation.

Mr. Gray wants to move forward, and has even written language in the FY 2010 Budget Request Act to federally approve the land transfer from The Federal Government to The District of Columbia:

SEC. 212…

(b)(1) Within 90 days of the effective date of this section, the Secretary of the Interior shall transfer administrative jurisdiction, for recreational purposes, of approximately 15 acres of land located in the northern portion of Fort Dupont Park, U.S. Reservation 405, from the United States, by the Department of the Interior, National Park Service, to the government of the District of Columbia.

(2) The land to be transferred under paragraph (1) of this subsection is described in the October 2008 Environmental Assessment prepared by the National Park Service, entitled “Transfer of Jurisdiction of Certain National Park Service Properties to the District of Columbia Government (National Capital Parks - East: Fort Dupont Park)”.

(3) The transfer under paragraph (1) of this subsection shall be subject to a limited right of reversion by the Secretary of the Interior. The limited right of reversion may be exercised only if:

(A)(i)Within 5 years after the transfer under paragraph (1) of this subsection occurs, the District has not commenced activity to improve the transferred portion of Fort Dupont Park for recreational uses or facilities; or

(ii) After 5 years after the transfer under paragraph (1) of this subsection occurs, the District has ceased for at least 5 years to use the transferred portion of Fort Dupont Park for a recreational use or facility;

(B) The Secretary of the Interior provides to the District written notice of his or preliminary determination that the condition described in subparagraph (A)(i)or (ii) of this paragraph has occurred and the District has not, within 90 days after the notice was delivered to the District, addressed the Secretary’s preliminary determination to the Secretary’s reasonable satisfaction; and

(C) After such 90-day period, the Secretary has determined, in accordance with chapter 5 of title 5, United States Code (relating to administrative procedure) that the condition described in subparagraph (A)(i)or (ii) of this paragraph has occurred.

“I am glad they are our allies (D.C Government)," believes Mrs. Tanenbaum. "It’s nice to know that we are both on the same page about this. We have really got to follow their lead because they are actually on the transfer document. We are not. The Nationals are not. So, we have to follow their lead. I know that for Vincent Gray, this is really important to him. And I can’t ask anymore for what they are doing. The city has been exceptional."

Chairman Gray's Office is working with D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and The District's Authorizing Committees to ensure the land transfer becomes Federal law. But the legal question yet to be answered is whether an approved FY 2010 Budget Request with the land transfer language included would supersede the legal filing and The National Park Service's broader reversionary clause?

In a conversation today with Ms. Pleune on the phone--she stated that all her clients wish to see is a more complete environmental assessment:

Would this filing be a moot point if an E.A. was completed and came back and said their would be negligible effect on the forest? (SBF)

“Yes," replied Ms. Pleune. "The only law they (National Park Service) violated is not doing that full analysis. So of course, if they did the full analysis, they are not violating the laws. So, of course—the lawsuit would go away."

Additionally, Ms. Pleune stated: "The law we are suing under does not mandate particular results. It does not force agencies to make an environmentally friendly decision. So it could be The National Park Service--could say: ‘Yes, this will in fact have a negative impact on the forest and these are all of the negative impacts it will have, and we (NPS) are still going to go forward (with the land transfer).’ So, if that happened, they (NPS) would have fulfilled their responsibility underneath it. But of course, my clients would be disappointed that native plant communities were not being protected in that situation.”

Mrs. Tanenbuam's response: “I am not too concerned about that lawsuit. They did have an environmental assessment. Nobody is ramrodding anything through anyone here. All the proper channels were followed—everyone crossed their T’s and dotted their I’s on this one.”

But that has yet to solve this situation to this day. Until The National Park Service makes a final decision on how to respond to the legal filing of the environmental assessment. And until The National Park Service negotiates better revisionary terms with The District of Columbia Government over the land transfer or The 2010 D.C. Budget Request language is approved by Congress--The Proposed D.C. Baseball Academy stands in limbo. And thousands of District Youths are missing out on a prime opportunity to learn and develop physical and mental skills needed for their advancement in life.

Dismayed, but always hopeful, Marla Lerner Tanenbaum still sees The Baseball Academy Dream reaching its fruition: “I just keep working, moving forward, hoping when the land transfer does happen, I will have all my ducks in order and I am not going to be delayed for one minute. I am working with the architect, Major League Baseball, and everybody else I can work with to be ready to finish off a very important project for the good of our community."


Deanwoodenizen said...

Who is the DC Resident on the lawsuit? Neighbors in Ward 7 would LOVE to know.

bryandc said...

great read! but small correction on this item, "...with D.C. Senator Eleanor Holmes Norton..."

Norton is not a Senator OR a Representative, she is a non-voting "Delegate to Congress"

Certainly adding to this hold-up is the fact that D.C. has NO voting representation in the US Congress.

SenatorNat said...

Great account. I am heartened to hear Mrs. Tanenbaum give heartfelt credit to D.C. Council, gov't, and U.S. Delegate for their concerted efforts on behalf of seeing this project through. D.C. is acting smart, but also magnanimously in light of the Lerners refusing to pay rent in National Park's first year. The Lerners, native D.C. types, have given signals from the start that dealing with D.C. officials and process is more a necessary evil than a partnership to be cultivated for mutual benefit.

Trust in "Can't We All Just Get Along?," and the Spotted Owl along the edge giving a hoot. All EIS - not ESPN.

SenatorNat said...

Incidentally, since there is no post as yet on the 66th loss last evening, I will comment here. Nats now tied with 1962 Mets at 26-66. Riggles put a Sunday get-away styled line-up on the field to support a rookie's first start - Harris at third, Belliard at second, Kearns in right, and of course, two non-fielders in Dunn (left) and Bard (catching). Line-up had Guz batting 5th! Results: Guz cannot move two feet to his left or right; Bard once more managed not to effectively block the plate on a throw which should have been an out at home and ended the inning with only one run scoring; Guz 0-4. Lifeless, lifeless, lifeless.

Other than Morgan, everyone going through the motions. Johnson having a "career year" by playing in some mental phone booth, apparently - he shows NO EMOTION for what is going on this year - NONE!

This team hits .262, compared to 1961 Expansion Senators who hit .242; but has a team ERA about one run higher and will probably exceed the 154 errors committed by that gang. The 1961 Senators lost 100 games.

The 2009 Nationals have now lost 20 out of 25 - they look like they could go the remainder of the season without winning another 10 games! You sit there and think: they cannot win, they do not think they can win, they will not win. If Clippard throws three innings of no-hit ball, you think "My Goodness, I don't think I have seen that happen all year!" If Bard actally catches a perfect strike from the outfield and applies the tag without the runner magically eluding him, you will think the same thing, and be correct. If there is a game with no such mistakes, no errors, no WPs or PBs, and no double-play rally killers and called third strike with runners on, it is as rare as a full eclipse or Haleys' Comet coming around.

Is it possible that a team with Ryan Zimmerman, and Adam Dunn and Nick Johnson having career years seems destined to achieve a record far worse than a Senators team with the likes of Coot Veal, Jim King, Dale Long, Danny O'Connell, Chuck Cottier, Willie Tasby, and Marty Keough? (And don't tell me that Gene Green and Harry Bright were blue-chippers, either.)

Rizzo's remarks today in Post are reality backwards- it is the other team who is refusing to "rent a player for one-half of a season," NOT the Nats - that is why Johnson is not going to get back in trade anything worthwhile. At this rate, count on losing Nick in the off-season, after the Strasburg signing hits an unpassible point, and he does not sign. If the trend continues, and that dismal scenario plays out, Rizzo would not get the job. If team loses 115, and is on pace to lose over 100 next year, Kasten will depart too, with his ownership share gladly purchased by the family. Cut-out the middle man. Starting over seems in the stars for this moon-struck franchise, actually.

This portends to be a very long winter before spring for the Nationals. Recall that in their 9th year, Senators finished 10 games over .500 under Ted Williams. That gives Nats only four years to get to the same point as the Senators. Unbelievable!

Trust in the Longest Season Ever. And digging a ditch too deep for any ladder. All economics.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Deanwood Denizen: The resident named on the filing is a David Culp of the district.