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Letter: ‘On the Web’ Not an Answer

To the Editor:

The vice mayor, in responding to the letter “Metro on Scenic Easement” (Gazette Packet, Oct. 19), does not refute my salient point, but does omit some history. Factually, the small area plan for the North Potomac Yard was discussed and passed by the city Council on May 15, 2010, not June as he implies. There was no mention or consideration of any Memorandum of Understanding in either the discussions or the material provided to the public for the May meeting. The later meeting referenced by the vice mayor was a technical rezoning in which the memorandum was pasted into 500-page documentation without any public notification.

Furthermore, neither the presentations nor discussions at the June meeting revealed the city had agreed with the developer that he only pay for the Metro Station if it ends in the scenic easement held by the National Park Services. It should therefore come as no surprise that the National Park Service and two planning commissioners whom I contacted, were unaware of the memorandum’s existence until it I brought it up. 

The vice mayor’s suggestion that the public discourse is satisfied by putting the material on the web without letting the public know about it is a stretch. Nevertheless, it has occurred consistently at critical times in this process. The City Council was asked on three separate occasions to advertise the public hearings on the Environmental Impact Statement to no avail. “It was on the web,” I was told, but so are 5 trillion other megabytes of information. Although it is tempting to use an obvious cliché here (If a tree falls in the wood and no one hears it, did it fall?), the seriousness of so many citizens having been left out of the process warrants more — certainly more than the city is providing.

Poul Hertel

Alexandria