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Planning around the McMillan Sand Filtration Site, the 25-acre grassland between Howard University and North Capitol Street, has long been contentious—as is any project involving massive private development on a site of historical significance. But if last night’s meeting of the McMillan Advisory Group is any indication, things have escalated recently. Community activist Tony Norman was “offended” to notice that the city had requested five uniformed police officers to be present during the meeting. Clint Jackson, the project manager with the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, defended the precaution.

“There are people who don’t feel comfortable in this environment,” Jackson said. “I think you’re aware of how our dialogue has evolved over the last several months.”

There was some heated discussion among group members, which a professional facilitator brought in for the occasion tried mightily to tamp down. But Norman approved of the developers’ 250-page historic preservation study laying out guidelines for rehabilitation that would respect the site’s historic resources. The group then trudged  through an explanation of the very rosy fiscal impact statement, which the consultant emphasized was “iterative,” subject to change as economic conditions shift and the plans take shape.

The next step: Three community meetings conducted by master planner Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn, the first of which will be scheduled in September, to present what’s been planned already and gather input.