The Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) had plenty on its agenda at its first meeting of 2018 on Jan. 10.
However, before turning to it, the ANC laid to rest a controversy that had caused hard feelings and stormy meetings in the last year.
Members of ANC 2B voted to overturn their Sept. 13 censure of commissioner Nick DelleDonne, whose personality and behavior had been criticized as abrasive and condescending by other commissioners and constituents.
The motion to rescind the censure came from Commissioner Scott Davies, who characterized the legislative process used by the ANC as “flawed.” The DC Attorney General’s office last month criticized the censure on the same grounds.
Mike Silverstein, another ANC member, said the September vote was taken in the heat of emotion.
“(DelleDonne’s) behavior was upsetting to people, but we went beyond what should have been done,” Silverstein said. “It’s time to stop hating. We’re here because we love this neighborhood. This is our home and our common bond. It’s time to move forward.”
DelleDonne thanked Davies for introducing the motion.
“I appreciate this move,” DelleDonne said. “It’s of value to me to have my good name cleared. I regret if some of the things I’ve done have offended my colleagues. Please bring things directly to my attention.”
Silverstein later introduced a motion requiring that the minutes of the September meeting, when the censure vote was taken, be amended to show the censure had been revoked.
In the balloting on both motions, Commissioner Nicole McEntee abstained. The other commissioners present all voted yes.
With the discussion of the DelleDonne censure lasting less than 15 minutes, the commission devoted most of the more than three-hour meeting to questions of historic preservation, zoning, public space and the election of officers for 2018.
Architect Outerbridge Horsey was given considerable time to outline plans for the proposed improvements to Stead Park, which Mike Silverstein described as “a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”
The recreation center at the park, located at 1625 P St. NW, will receive a substantial addition. Horsey said the additional space will be available for assemblies by nearby Ross Elementary School, which lacks such a facility.
“They don’t have an assembly space now, so they are quite excited about it,” Horsey said.
Space in the building will be provided for community meetings and indoor play in bad weather. The expansion will also house yoga mats and art activities.
In an echo of the pre-Hooterville world of Oliver Wendell Douglas of “Green Acres” fame, an urban farm will be located on the roof of the building.
“The rooftop farm will introduce kids to growing plants, cooking and nutrition,” Horsey said. “This will be the first time [the District’s Department of Parks and Recreation] has had a rooftop project.”
The Department of Parks and Recreation, which oversees the park, would assign an employee to each floor and the roof whenever activities are scheduled, according to Horsey. The building will have a kitchen, and might be used as a hypothermia center during harsh winter weather.
Horsey also said the playground in Stead Park will be expanded. Playground equipment selection is underway.
Tom Bower of the Dupont Circle Conservancy and other citizens present encouraged the retention of the historic 1888 carriage house, which is the iconic structure in the park. Bower called it “the important building there in terms of historic significance.”
Silverstein spoke in favor of prompt action in moving the project along, owing to budgetary and political concerns.
“There’s a storm coming to the city with the federal budget, cutbacks in money for healthcare and other programs,” Silverstein said. “My fear is that next year we will be in the same [financial] position as 10 years ago. We need to move this forward this year. Delaying this process can kill this project because of what’s coming down the road from Congress.”
The commission voted unanimously to support the architectural massing and concept design Horsey laid out. The ANC’s approval will be submitted to the Commission on Fine Arts when the federal agency considers the project at its Jan. 18 meeting.
Jerry Chapin from the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services urged residents to channel the Good Samaritan in helping the homeless during the bitterly cold weather.
“Have this number in your phone during the cold snap,” Chapin said. “800-535-7252 is the shelter hotline. If you see homeless people, call that number and ask for a wellness check and let people know they can get food and shelter.”
New officers were chosen at the meeting. Daniel Warwick was elected chairman in an 8-1 vote, with DelleDonne casting the no vote. DelleDonne had nominated commissioner Kari Cunningham for the top post, calling her a “fresh voice.” The nomination died for lack of a second.
Votes for the other officers included Amy Johnson as vice chairwoman, Nicole McEntee as secretary and Stephanie Maltz as treasurer. All were unanimous.