A bill authored by Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie could mean more affordable housing on public land.
A bill authored by Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie could mean more affordable housing on public land.

Now that the D.C. Council, spurred by Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser, is moving away from a key land swap as part of the D.C. United stadium deal, the city may be forced to acquire a chunk of land at the Buzzard Point stadium site through eminent domain. (Over at the Washington Business JournalMichael Neibauer reports that with the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center trade dropped from the deal, the city is planning to take on an additional $70 million in debt to pay for the stadium land assembly.) But that’s not the only eminent domain activity that could be on the horizon.

Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie is planning to introduce emergency legislation at tomorrow’s Council legislative meeting to authorize the use of eminent domain to seize property in Brentwood for city use. The site, on W Street NE, is home to a private trash transfer station that opened in 1988 and has riled Brentwood neighbors ever since.

Ward 5 is home to much of the city’s industrial land, some of which is used for city functions, like parking lots for garbage trucks and school buses, that have led residents to complain of being the city’s dumping ground. McDuffie has worked to convert his ward’s industrial land into more neighborhood-friendly uses, without sacrificing what little industrial space the city has left. In August, he and Mayor Vince Gray released a five-year strategy for handling the ward’s industrial spaces.

But that strategy is largely aspirational. Now McDuffie is seeking to put the government’s muscle behind his ambitions for the ward by using eminent domain to take over the transfer station and relocate some of DC Water’s operations there.

“The trash transfer station is a blighting factor in the Brentwood and nearby communities,” McDuffie’s office wrote in a memo to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson requesting that the emergency legislation be placed on tomorrow’s agenda. “Residents of Brentwood and the surrounding communities have concerns regarding the noxious fumes that emanate from the trash transfer station and have complained that there is an increased incidence of health concerns.”

DC Water currently operates a site near First Street SE, in the Navy Yard area, that will be relocated so that developer Forest City can acquire the land from the city for its ongoing development projects in the neighborhood. A portion of DC Water’s operations will be moved to Prince George’s County. McDuffie’s legislation calls for moving the remainder of the DC Water functions, including fleet operations, to the Brentwood site. But DC Water spokesman John Lisle says that’s not quite right: Fleet operations would move to Prince George’s, while customer care and operations for sewer services would take over the W Street site.

“We’re not part of [the site decision],” says Lisle. “That’s the city’s decision. But we are aware of this site. We’ve assessed it and we think it would meet our needs, and we’ve been working closely with the deputy mayor’s office and Councilmember McDuffie’s office.”

If the plan goes forward, sewer workers and their trucks would move to W Street. That might not be exactly the type of neighborhood-boosting amenity that Brentwood residents were seeking as they fought for the trash transfer station’s removal. But for neighbors who have complained of stenches and flies, McDuffie’s hoping, the change will still be a marked improvement.

This post has been updated to include comment and information from Lisle.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery