Greater Greater Washington

Wisconsin Giant opponents file lawsuit

Opponents of the Wisconsin Giant project have filed a lawsuit to try to stop the project. The Wisconsin-Newark Neighbors Coalition, one of several ad-hoc groups that formed to oppose the project, has appealed the Zoning Commission's approval of the project (PDF). Jeff Davis, founder of pro-Giant group AWARE, wrote, "This could delay the construction by an additional one to three years."


Residents are suing to stop this. Image from the Giant project team.

Resident Bill wrote on the Cleveland Park listserv,

I for one am dismayed by the endless bickering and legal maneuvering that hamstrings any effort to make our neighborhood a better place. The Giant controversy is only the most recent and egregious example.

I have spent many years in countries Americans often regard as "byzantine" and "dysfunctional," looking down on them because they can't resolve any of their problems or resolve conflicts without people tearing each other apart. I'd say Cleveland Park in the past few years ranks with the worst of them in terms of conflict resolution, and we are a small community of generally well-educated and tolerant people with many mutual interests about what makes a neighborhood most livable.

WNNC's opposition brief (PDF) in the Zoning Commission case outlines their objections. The neighborhood commercial overlay, which includes the Giant site, prohibits development of the scale in the project. WNNC argues that the Zoning Commission doesn't have the authority to approve the Giant PUD in a way that conflicts with the overlay. Councilmember Phil Mendelson made a similar argument at the hearing.

The Office of Planning and the Cleveland Park ANC both have argued, as did I, that the overlay shouldn't trump the project. In its order, the Zoning Commission claimed that it does have the authority to remove the property from the overlay. They are the ones who create overlays, and can also modify them, and make other zoning amendments. The opponents essentially appear to be arguing that the Zoning Commission has to go through a different kind of proceeding to modify the overlay, separate from the approval of the PUD, or have the Board of Zoning Adjustment grant a special exception. The Zoning Commission says that they are allowed to make map amendments in conjunction with a PUD, and this counts as a map amendment.

Ann Hamilton, a resident of the area, sent that brief to the Office of Zoning and participated in the hearing as part of WNNC. Hamilton is also running for one of the officer positions in the Cleveland Park Citizens' Association as part of the "Unity Slate," which has recently emerged in opposition to Davis' "Reform Slate." Likely seeing the writing on the wall from the rush of new members and the backlash when they postponed the elections, the present leaders aren't running, but sources familiar with the candidates say that the Unity Slate represents the old guard's handpicked successors.

The Unity Slate candidate for President, John Chelen, wrote about bringing the neighborhood together and creating a more inclusive and communicative CPCA, similar themes to those we heard from Davis and the Reform Slate. The key differences are in their approach to the actual issues and change in the neighborhood. From all indications so far, from the Giant to the restaurant limitations on Connecticut Avenue, the Unity Slate seems to come down on the side of opposing most change, and the Reform Slate interested in finding ways to improve the neighborhood that most residents can support.

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Sigh.

by Jasper on Sep 11, 2009 4:00 pm • linkreport

NIMBYs and lawyers

NEVER a good combination

by w on Sep 11, 2009 4:10 pm • linkreport

Remind me... what is their main problem with the Giant proposal anyway? Too much traffic? They don't like Giant? They like surface lots? I assume that they're not opposed to project simply because it may violate some inane procedural law...

And what standing does the group have to oppose the project in court? Does any citizens group have the right to stop any project it opposes by filing suit? It's really no wonder why businesses don't bother to operate in the District even when they want to.

by Adam L on Sep 11, 2009 4:12 pm • linkreport

What a shame that these people are so afraid of change. The Project is a good on, and will sure be better than that old circa 1950 store that is there now.

by wth2j on Sep 11, 2009 4:32 pm • linkreport

Adam, you are correct. This isn't and hasn't been fought because someone in the neighborhood wanted to ensure the "t"'s were crossed in terms of procedure. It's being fought because the TWO homes closest to Giant are worried about the noise from truck loading and unloading.

This despite Giant agreeing to install expensive sound deading windows and doors for these folks.

Lastly but not least, the truck dock on the current Giant is ALREADY next to their homes. The redesigned one is no closer than it already is. These folks purchased their homes next to an operating truck dock for Giant, and now would like the whole thing to go away.

I am constantly amazed at the blind idiocy of someone moving to an urban area of their own free will, then complaining about it from that point forward, trying to return CP back to the sleepy suburb it was in the 1930's.

Here is a clue folks. If you are bothered by the day to day operations of a grocery store, don't buy a house that sits adjacent to one and then try to get it shut down.

by E on Sep 11, 2009 4:34 pm • linkreport

next thing you know,

the NIMBYs will be declaring selected surface parking lots to be protected architectural treasures.

They have tried to keep that horrid church on 16th street from being knocked down and have fought to preserve that abysmal & depressing Mies Van Der Rohe piece of trash library from being knocked down.

The NIMBYs all love parking and their perceived inherent constitutional rights to free parking.

It's a logical progression of their thought to accord surface parking lots this same kind of wonderful protection.

by w on Sep 11, 2009 4:53 pm • linkreport

If Cleveland Park does not want this project, I'll take it in my neighborhood! :-)

Maybe it can be moved to 19th & C SE next to the Stadium-Armory Metro Station? The land there is currently a huge surface parking lot for DC Government employees and I would much prefer to walk past something like this project than a surface parking on my way home from the Metro. Seriously, though. What are these people thinking?!?

by rg on Sep 11, 2009 5:02 pm • linkreport

It sounds like it would be easier to bulldoze those two houses then. Call it an accident. Repay them and move on with this.

by NikolasM on Sep 11, 2009 5:07 pm • linkreport

For many CPCA members, the concern was that the CPCA leadership's goal in delaying the elections due to the "emergency" situation of lots of new members joining, was simply so they could file an appeal of Zoning's approval of the project.

With the uproar that followed the delayed election, there was no way the CPCA leadership could then file a lawsuit on behalf of the CPCA. So they did the next best thing and created a new community group to file the suit.

I think the Idaho Avenue residents had a very valid argument about the impact of the noise and vibrations from delivery trucks on their homes (and contrary to E's post, the current loading dock isn't located anywhere near the Idaho Avenue homes).

BUT, Giant made a very good faith effort to deal with the immediate neighbors' issues by offering to pay for sound-deadening windows and doors. No, those aren't going to completely get rid of the noise from delivery trucks. But then again, that's not Giant's responsibility.

The lawsuit's goal seems to be to delay this project even longer in the hopes that Giant will just give up and leave everything the way it is: a tiny, badly outdated grocery store, several vacant storefronts, and a large parking lot that's empty for most of the day.

At some point, it's time for people to simply acknowledge that they've lost.

by Fritz on Sep 11, 2009 5:15 pm • linkreport

Hannah Arendt makes the point in her most kick-ass book that a bureaucracy is rule by nobody because members are only beholden to the procedural rules of the organization. Killing a project by procedure is equally empty, since it negates all possible value decisions and subverts public discourse. This action is disgraceful and I seriously hope the opponents are humble enough to admit that they were wrong when the store opens.

While we're at it make Idaho Avenue respectably grand. And build Hamilton Circle.

by цarьchitect on Sep 11, 2009 5:22 pm • linkreport

This is simply an absurd move and bad for the community and the city. Here we have a company willing to invest millions of dollars in the community, for new residences, new commercial opportunities etc, and on the other side are a handful of what, 10 people (who knows, none of the names are public!!).

The people ought to be forthcoming in terms of who they are, how many the represent and why they believe, other than their proximity to the site, why they feel they have the right to delay this project one second more than the 10 years they have already imposed.

by William on Sep 11, 2009 5:23 pm • linkreport

Fritz, if the appeal (or others) succeed in blocking the Giant PUD, will Giant even remain? I assume they'll sell the property to someone to build a condo or some such thing.

by ah on Sep 11, 2009 5:31 pm • linkreport

If the people who filed this appeal somehow prevail, then if I were Giant, I would close the store as well as terminate the leases on all of the retail spaces in the north parcel and let it remain fallow for 10 years. Obviously this would never happen, but DC has monuments to many heroic issues and causes. It deserves to have one to supreme stupidity.

by William on Sep 11, 2009 5:37 pm • linkreport

Alpert,

In the interest of completeness, you failed to report that Giant's lawyers themselves filed a motion for reconsideration in August, essentially an appeal of certain aspects of the Zoning Commission's order. Evidently Giant didn't like the few conditions that the ZC would impose on their development.

Are you reporting the facts, or just another cog in Giant's PR machine ?

by CP Truth on Sep 12, 2009 9:00 am • linkreport

@ CP Truth: Are you? Or you just another cog in the anti-Giant PR machine?

I don't see any Giant banner here. I don't know what got in your wallet.

by Jasper on Sep 12, 2009 11:06 am • linkreport

I haven't seen any projects in DC that were worse for too much citizen input. I've seen way too many that are bad because they weren't thought out enough. To those that want a libertarian laissez-faire system with no zoning I suggest this may not be the city for you. Your right-wing views are out of favor here. The issue in DC is corruption vs. thoughtful planning. Fast-track approvals are usually a matter of corruption.

I don't have a "side" on the Giant project but it seems Giant could build a new store anytime it wants. It's holding a new store hostage to getting what it wants. Understandable corporate maximum profit motive or greed, however you see it. The process is taking too long but that's the problem when you have a disfunctional Zoning Board that's little more than a rubber stamp and input and compromise have to be forced through lawsuits.

Giant could build by law anytime it wants. It's because they want more than the law allows that the delay is happening. This may be an extreme case because of the politics involved, but 9 out of 10 times in DC it's the Zoning Board's fault for not forcing thoughtful neighborhood input and compromise early in the process.

Again, I have no dog in the Giant fight and I hope the neighbors are not just stonewalling to stop development.

by Tom Coumaris on Sep 12, 2009 12:02 pm • linkreport

@CP Truth

The reports I have seen indicate Giant simply is seeking clarity on some ambiguous elements of the zoning order, primarily so, as the store is completed, there isn't additional acrimony over things like mitigation of the Idaho neighbors windows, or a transportation management program.

That is very different than a legal appeal which could take years to settle. Are you willing to acknowledge the difference?

by William on Sep 12, 2009 12:26 pm • linkreport

CP Truth-- are you serious? Yes, this blog is just one big conspiracy to get more walkable, mixed-use, development that gives neighbors another option than driving everywhere to satisfy retail and other shopping needs.

by Ben on Sep 12, 2009 12:54 pm • linkreport

Great post, Tom. You are absolutely right. Giant could have renovated and even rebuilt and expanded the store at any time during the past ten years. Look at what Safeway did in Chevy Chase or what Super Fresh did in AU Park. Both those stores are terrific and had no neighborhood opposition. Giant is holding up the process by trying to bust the zoning so it can build some mega-store (the largest in the whole city and surrounding area) filled with all sorts of inferior products. If I had wanted to live in Gaithersburg, I would have done so. I do not want some grossly over-sized suburban style store in the middle of my nice CITY neighborhood.

In the process, we risk losing the terrific neighborhood shops we value so much. For example, the evidence suggests that our beloved Sullivans toy store will not be priced out of the new development. Giant, of course, could offer concessions, but it's unlikely they will do so when they are trying to sell cheap plastic toys out of the grocery store. The owner of Two Amy's is wondering where people will park given that Giant intends to build so little parking for the entire development.

These are significant issues. The AWARE group likes to suggest that the appeals are the work of a small number of neighbors, but there are hundreds of CP citizens who share the concerns and support the appeal. Most of the people in AWARE do not even live in Cleveland Park.

I hope the appeals court will look seriously at the legal issues surrounding this development; the zoning commission just rubber stamped it.

by pdl999 on Sep 12, 2009 1:07 pm • linkreport

@pdl999

Are you serious? As it is, patrons of 2Amys, me included, park in the Giant lot, or on city streets. What makes you think anything would be different after the store is complete?

This is a red herring I have begun seeing out of the opponents.

I would like to know who the "hundreds of CP Citizens" are who share these concerns.

As to the idea that "most people in AWARE don't even live in Cleveland Park", what substance or proof do you have of such a statement, unless you are considering people who live in McLean Gardens or Cathedral Heights, who are as impacted by the lack of decent neighborhood serving retail and are negatively impacted by decisions made by the CPCA.

I would note, did you know the Giant in question isn't even in the CPCA boundaries? That is some nerve, don't you think?

by William on Sep 12, 2009 1:27 pm • linkreport

pdl999:

Maybe some of the Two Amy's customers can park in the 540 spaces this development will provide (http://www.wisconsinavegiant.com/PDFs/UPDATEnewsletter_090508.pdf) Then again, many of the new residents at this development will walk to the dining establishments. If you read any of the planning literature, you'll find that increasing accessibility will reduce driving and increase the number of nonmotorized trips instead.

by Ben on Sep 12, 2009 1:36 pm • linkreport

@pdl999 and Tom: I don't think anyone here is trying to make "right-wing, laissez faire" arguments here about the redevelopment. We have a company that is willing to invest millions in a neighborhood that has otherwise been neglected by developers for decades, bringing new residences, retail and a new grocery store--an engine for neighborhood renewal.

True, neighborhood input is good, but the developer should have some discretion to do with the property what they like. It seems like the neighbors in this case are doing nothing but bringing costly delays to the project, perhaps deterring other redevelopment in the area.

by John on Sep 12, 2009 1:51 pm • linkreport

I lived right there for years. the current giant and surface lot is abysmal and completely out of sorts with the surrounding area. this is a great project and desperately needed. you couldn't do much worse than what they have there already.

by Lee on Sep 12, 2009 3:20 pm • linkreport

Here's the deal. DCRA will typically issue building permits once the Zoning Commission order becomes final, notwithstanding a pending appeal. So if Giant and its many counsel really believe that the appeal filed by these two party organizations are frivolous, Giant will begin construction and there will be no delay from the appeal. If, on the other hand, Giant's counsel are concerned that the Zoning Board may have cut some corners and misapplied the law, then Giant will wait until the appeal is decided.

I guess we'll find out soon enough what Giant really thinks of the neighbors' case.

by CP Truth on Sep 12, 2009 3:49 pm • linkreport

if you support this project and others like it: vote out Mendelson next year. Remember that he actually testified against it.

by DG-rad on Sep 12, 2009 4:23 pm • linkreport

I hardly think that Giant will proceed without having all matters resolved. If that means the neighborhood will have to await the resolution of the appeals by the very small handful of people who support this, then so be it.

I hope you and the others who support this will feel happy about causing more rift and discord in the neighborhood.

As I said yesterday, if I were Giant, I would simply shut down the two blocks for about ten years and then try again, simply to spite the opponents. Of course, that is bad business, so they won't do that, but really, how much is enough?

There has been about ten years of discussion and compromise among the community and with Giant.

by William on Sep 12, 2009 4:24 pm • linkreport

As I said before, Giant could have built a significantly bigger and more improved store as a matter of right anytime over the past 10 years. There's been no compromise at all. They have asked for more and more each year and the zoning board gave it to them while disregarding the law. I suspect the appeals court will make its decision on the law rather than on listserv polls.

by pdl999 on Sep 12, 2009 4:41 pm • linkreport

Actually, the folks who have sewn" rift and discord" in the neighborhood are named Davis and Rosella, who now seek to "lead" CPCA. We have always had vigorous but respectful, debates on neighborhood issues, but never the personal attacks and character assassination promoted by these individuals. Now it seems that the national attack political tactics that we see more recently played out in the health care town meetings are being used locally. I know several people who supported the Giant PUD who nonetheless plan to vote against the mean spiritedness that these individuals have promoted.

By the way, it's not just a handful of people who wanted Giant to modify its plan (and go back to the PUD they first brought to the community in 2006). Approximately 200 people from Cleveland Park and nearby neighborhoods signed the petition that is in the Zoning Board record. A number of others testified at the hearings.

by CP Truth on Sep 12, 2009 4:42 pm • linkreport

@CP Truth

So first we hear the argument that AWARE is made up of people outside of the neighborhood and now, to quote, "Approximately 200 people from Cleveland Park and nearby neighborhoods signed the petition that is in the Zoning Board record." So is it ok that people out side of the neighborhood weigh in on this or not?

The rift and discord is being sen now by the continued fighting and legal wrangling which continue to take place despite the true voice of the residents (however you want to define them) speaking out.

The fact that the CPCA took the position it did, representing "the neighborhood" with barely a couple of dozen votes present at some poorly scheduled meeting is at issue.

I hardly call the debate over the NCS Gym, Tregaron, NCRC or new sidewalks on Ordway street "respectful". Indeed, these debates represent anything but civil discussion, and finally the "silent majority" has arisen. No longer will the back room dealings of local political and civic leaders rule the roost.

I am not sure where Davis and Rosella are sewing rift and discord. They have done nothing but try to open communications and move the neighborhood into a situation where people can actually communicate with each other and the civic institutions in the community. Perhaps that is what you are scared of? Actual communication and openness?

by William on Sep 12, 2009 5:08 pm • linkreport

@Tom-- Giant has been trying to get this redevelopment approved for nearly a decade. If you think that the zoning board's actions here constituted a "fast-track approval" (or, for that matter, that Dave Alpert's views are "right-wing") then you are a Grade A moron.

by Josh B on Sep 12, 2009 6:01 pm • linkreport

Can't speak to NCRC - not sure if CPCA had any role in that. Several years later they did oppose Geoff Griffis' nomination to the Zoning Board because of his, um, widely-reported "conflict of interest" issues in the NCRC case. Is the "Reform" slate really about NCRC?!?

You mention Tregaron, in which CPCA played a minor role, but a proud one. What resulted was a win-win for everyone: a conservancy was formed that has done a wonderful job restoring trails and gardens, Washington International School was able to expand and the city approved some reasonably-scaled development. I don't recall that there was any "debate" in the neighborhood over that, civil or otherwise. Do you actually think that Tregaron was a bad result?

by CP Truth on Sep 12, 2009 7:23 pm • linkreport

As I said before, Giant could have built a significantly bigger and more improved store as a matter of right anytime over the past 10 years. There's been no compromise at all.

What you want is not a compromise at all. That's just something you want, and Giant doesn't. When you compromise, you have to give something up too, not just your opponent.

by цarьchitect on Sep 12, 2009 7:32 pm • linkreport

As I said before, Giant could have built a significantly bigger and more improved store as a matter of right anytime over the past 10 years. There's been no compromise at all.
What you want is not a compromise at all. That's just something you want, and Giant doesn't. When you compromise, you have to give something up too, not just your opponent.

EXACTLY. What has Giant given up in this debate? The plan for the store and surrounding keeps getting bigger and bigger. Giant has not been asked to make a single concession or provide a single amenity as part of the development. It's shocking. The zoning board has ignored the neighborhood so now the neighborhood has to go to court. It could have been avoided if Giant had been willing to compromise.

by pdl999 on Sep 12, 2009 7:40 pm • linkreport

or provide a single amenity

What would you like? I'd like a pleasant mixed use community. No really, what counts as an amenity to you?

By the way, you are not the neighborhood. 200 people is not even 1/10th of the neighborhood.

by цarьchitect on Sep 12, 2009 8:14 pm • linkreport

I stand corrected, I didn't mean Tregaron, I meant Klingle Road, which, to this day rankles in the minds of many Cleveland Park residents (not to mention residents of Mt. Pleasant and Adams Morgan).

by William on Sep 12, 2009 8:19 pm • linkreport

If an appeal has just been filed then there has been a recent decision from Zoning.

I have nothing but respect for the enormous work David does on the blog and for his interest in preservation, zoning and planning. I have no patience for comments about how there is too much planning and individual property rights (of corporations) being more important or how people interested in good planning are obstructionists to "progress".

My point is that instead of promoting development, having a Zoning board that is little more than a rubber stamp impedes development in areas that can afford appeals. If consensus and compromise were forced by the BZA early on in the process, citizens would not be forced to appeal in order to force the developer into negotiation.

As it is neighborhoods that cannot afford appeals get sloppy projects that are rarely thought out while affluent neighborhoods are forced to legal appeals to get negotiations which pretty much stop anything for years. That's the worst outcome but unfortunately where DC is.

Sorry if that sounds like a "Grade A Moron"'s views.

by Tom Coumaris on Sep 12, 2009 8:21 pm • linkreport

Tom, I, for one, do not think you are a moron.

However, in the grand scheme of things, the Giant issue has been debated, dissected and recast so many times, and for once, there is a solid proposal on the table, which has been tweaked at the behest of the community into something that 99% of the people who might use the store and surrounding retail find exciting and appealing. However that 1%, which has been steadfast in its opposition to this redevelopment scheme continues to play the delay game, and to what end?

Isn't ironic that the counter proposal to the current scheme is virtually identical to the original proposal from around 1999 (you know, the one that was opposed causing the "blank wall" counterproposal in 2002, which caused the frivolous landmark application on the property)?

In my opinion, the project has seen consensus and compromise to the hilt, only to have the standard scorched earth policy of the WNNC play their final (hopefully) card.

by William on Sep 12, 2009 8:43 pm • linkreport

Wasn't it Mary Cheh who was responsible for closing Klingle Road?

As for amenities...a modest PUD in Adams Morgan included developer-built community theatre space. A condo building PUD in the West End included a contribution of $400,000 to renovate a nearby park. What do we get for the much larger Giant development? Green space the size of a bathtub with a foot fountain and a berm to hide the loading dock. Amenities are required in connection with a PUD. Instead Giant touted the "SuperCenter" itself as the "amenity" -- in an area that, unlike Ward 8, doesn't lack a choice of food stores. Other neighborhoods get community theater space or a new park, and we get a... Pringle Palace.

by CP Truth on Sep 12, 2009 8:49 pm • linkreport

A simple search on the CPCA website yields a trove of longstanding activism against the reopening of the road, Mary Cheh nothwithstanding.

by William on Sep 12, 2009 9:15 pm • linkreport

CP Truth:

Your obstructionist agenda is clear for all to see. Here are a few of the community amenities that Giant is providing. Perhaps the most significant amenity is that Giant is providing 30 subterranean parking spots for other neighborhood restaurants and retailers (http://anc3c.org/resolutions/2009/Resolution%202009-01.pdf). Because of the engineering and construction required for this parking, this comes out to a $1.5M gift to the community (30 spaces at $50,000 per spot). Here are some of the additional amenities that Giant is providing:

• A loading dock coordinator.
• Quiet zone –prohibit deliveries between 9 PM and 7 AM.
• Direct all deliveries and trash services to use loading dock
facilities.
• Use of a recommended circulation route.
• Provide applicant representative phone number to ANC.
• No truck idling.
• Monitor loading activity. • A loading dock coordinator.
• Quiet zone –prohibit deliveries between 9 PM and 7 AM.
• Direct all deliveries and trash services to use loading dock
facilities.
• Use of a recommended circulation route.
• Provide applicant representative phone number to ANC.
• No truck idling.
• Monitor loading activity.
• Three car-sharing spaces in South Parcel garage
$20 SmarTripcard to initial residents
Bicycle parking and storage for residents, tenants, customers,
and visitors in both North Parcel and South Parcel garages
Provision of transit information
Promotion and facilitation of carpool use • Three car-sharing spaces in South Parcel garage
$20 SmarTripcard to initial residents
Bicycle parking and storage for residents, tenants, customers,
and visitors in both North Parcel and South Parcel garages
Provision of transit information
Promotion and facilitation of carpool use

by Ben on Sep 12, 2009 10:30 pm • linkreport

Ben,

You are forgetting the 10 years of free parking the Giant has already provided to the neighborhood and the overnight parking they are providing to residents of McLean Gardens.

They have also promised to give existing tenants - the afore mention Sullivan's Toy Store, for example - space in the completed complex, I believe, at existing rent rates.

Part of the Giant letter of reconsideration is to codify these amenities so there isn't confusion about them in the future. Opponents would have you believe that this is an appeal of their own, or some attempt to circumvent promises already made.

by William on Sep 12, 2009 11:02 pm • linkreport

Ben,

All of the items that you so grandly cite are intended as mitigation, but are not considered 'amenities." And the list doesn't even serve as meaningful mitigation. Most of your list is right out of DDOT's standard recommended template for PUDs and special exceptions (they were included at the Whitman Walker development) but the Giant list lacks some of what is being imposed at other developments, such as RPP ineligibility (a condition of Whitman Walker and some Upper Wisconsin PUDS, but which Giant refused despite it being a condition of ANC 3C's support of the project). Another ANC condition was a $500K escrow for future mitigation of traffic effects, which again Giant refused. My favorite item on your list is providing bus schedules, when anyone who has ever tried to use the 30s lines knows that the buses never run on schedule!

With the complete lack of amenities, no wonder that the Aware slate is so concerned about a notice of appeal. As I wrote earlier, other neighborhoods get community theater space or a new park, and we get a Pringle Palace.

Oh, and William -- the "promised" low or subsidized rents for existing tenants are no where in the ZC order. At the hearings, Giant's reps said they had discussed or were "open" to such a concept, but Giant made no commitments. If you can find where they have committed in writing to provide such discounted rents, by all means post it. I believe this is why Giant's clever lawyers have filed a motion to reconsider the ZC order. They want to strike catch all language in the order that might capture some of the "soft" promises that Giant's PR folks and lawyers may have made in the hearings and proposed findings of fact.

by CP Truth on Sep 13, 2009 7:44 am • linkreport

CP Truth:

Although you'd never agree, most people that I've met and on this blog think the greatest amenity provided by this Giant development is replacing a blighted, forlorn property with a clean, modern supermarket, more retail opportunities for neighbors, and new housing which will provide a chance for new residents to move into the community (which is probably the ultimate reason you oppose this).

It is also interesting to see how you complain about transit service to this section of Wisconsin Avenue yet at the same time the opponents only answer is to demand more parking. More free parking will directly undermine transit ridership to this neighborhood.

Additionally, as noted several times before, this isn't exactly a transit wasteland. This area is served by the N2/N3/N4, H4, 96, and the 30s buses. Furthermore, both the Cleveland Park and Tenley metro stations are within a 20-minute walk of this development. I live further down Wisconsin Avenue, and while there are improvements that could be made to the 30s line bus service, that bus isn't that bad.

by Ben on Sep 13, 2009 8:32 am • linkreport

To encourage transit ridership, which is a laudible goal, would you support restricting adjacent streets to resident parking only, as Bethesda does near high impact development? DDOT testified in the Giant hearing that they would consider this. If the parking garage is indeed adequate, and others will take the bus, DDOT's concept shouldn't be an issue. Agreed?

As for the supermarket (the 56,000 s.f. Pringle Palace) being the amenity, we are not Ward 8 with one supermarket. Under your reasoning, every PUD is its own "amenity." Neither law not logic supports this position.

by CP Truth on Sep 13, 2009 8:39 am • linkreport

You're right, with a Safeway and a Whole Foods in both Tenley and Glover Park and another Giant in Van Ness, this isn't Ward 8. This Giant is a store to serve local residents. With so many other supermarkets in the surrounding area, this won't bring the marauding hoards to the Cathedral area to buy your Pringles. What this will do is provide a clean, modern option for the residents who live there now so they don't have to drive out of the area for their shopping needs.

by Ben on Sep 13, 2009 9:01 am • linkreport

At the risk of injecting myself more in a case I'm not into...

How many of the "concessions" are really concessions to opponents' requests? That's what compromise involves; some of the opponents positions and some of the developer's. A lot of this list sounds more like the boilerplate feel-good stuff that developers always throw in to appease the sycophants who open every BZA hearing lately.

In civil cases (not appeals) the first thing the courts do is "forced mediation". The parties are put into a room with a trained mediator and forcefully told to come up with a solution or face the court's displeasure. At the BZA a condition on a variance or special exception is technically legally binding (even though often not enforced and rarely used).

Since there's no need for developers to concede anything with the present BZA, the practice is for citizens to simply make a good record and do a costly appeal to get a legally-binding settlement agreement.

While there are some exceptional cases that involve an interpretation of law that citizen's groups take to conclusion, most appeals are settled. The opponents and the developer often then become best friends. That's simply the costly and inefficient way we do things in regulatory matters in DC.

I repeat, a Zoning Board with teeth that developers were scared of could encourage more mediation early in a process. and ultimately get both better projects in neighborhoods that cannot afford appeals and faster development in affluent neighborhoods.

A developer can go ahead with construction of course pending appeal but risks modifications having to be made. Usually the legal costs of an appeal and difficulty getting construction financing are enough to encourage both sides to compromise.

If opponents are simply trying to obstruct any development the most they can hope for is a couple years and risk the appeals court's anger.

by Tom Coumaris on Sep 13, 2009 11:52 am • linkreport

The bus service along Wisconsin is horrible. I've tried to take it in the past, but my boss did not like me being an hour late for work every day. The idea that people will take the bus to the new Giant is laughable.

by pdl999 on Sep 13, 2009 12:00 pm • linkreport

@Tom

Much of the actual final design are based on modifications requested by the community, and as such, should be considered part of the compromise. There were numerous versions of the project dating back about ten years.

by William on Sep 13, 2009 12:22 pm • linkreport

If I were Giant and got tired of all the legal shenanigans, I'd simply announce I was closing the store, razing all the properties on the two parcels of land, and constructing two buildings that wouldn't require zoning approval: a halfway home for recently released convicts and an all-affordable housing residence for the super poor.

by Fritz on Sep 13, 2009 1:06 pm • linkreport

One wonders, if CP Truth is so confident that she knows the "truth", why she does not have the courage to post with her real name . . . .

by Sick of CP "Truth" on Sep 13, 2009 2:35 pm • linkreport

I'd really like to see someone tell us what "compromise" modifications that Giant made in response to community concerns. The only substantive change of which I am aware is that Giant's 2006 plan did not have access to the loading dock from the residential zone of Idaho Avenue and there was no loading either from Macomb Street. The ANC rep from McLean Gardens asked Giant to move the truck access further from her area. That, of course, created worse problems for the nearby residents on Macomb and Idaho.

by CP Truth on Sep 13, 2009 4:46 pm • linkreport

Mr. Alpert,

You wrote: "the present [CPCA] leaders aren't running, but sources familiar with the candidates say that the Unity Slate represents the old guard's handpicked successors."

Please explain in detail who your sources are, and what they told you. Everything I have read indicates that the Unity team has no overlap with the outgoing CPCA leadership, is not a CPCA-nominated slate and reflects a diversity of views on various issues in our neighborhood. If you are going to make sure broad assertions, please be so kind as to back them up. Thank you.

by Elizabeth on Sep 13, 2009 9:04 pm • linkreport

From an urbanism standpoint, it makes more sense to move the loading dock further away from the primary pedestrian focus area. A few feet downstream towards the Idaho access makes more sense of a lot of different levels. I believe this was part of DDOTs recommendations. I do not believe the McLean Gardens ANC rep was concerned about the loading dock being "close to her area", particularly since the trucks will be coming west on Idaho from Wisconsin, right through the edge of McLean Gardens.

I cannot speak for her and do not know if she reads this blog, but that is what I understood based on the brief attention I have given to this issue.

It is the same reason that I though the curb cuts on 14th Street were a bad idea, favoring instead the existing alley access.

by William on Sep 13, 2009 9:06 pm • linkreport

Elizabeth,

So you would have us believe that the folks who cancelled the election have simply disappeared and are not engaged in a rear-guard action to retain control?

Perhaps you would enlighten us as to where the CPCA Martial Law Posse stands in this election? Are they with the reform slate? Are they sitting it out?? Or are they backing this "Unity" slate that is running against those who have been trying to throw them out???

I'm just wondering, 'cause this is so hard to figure out.

Thank you.

by Not born yesterday on Sep 13, 2009 10:01 pm • linkreport

"Please explain in detail who your sources are, and what they told you."

oh grow up, ever heard of how reporting works? you don't name sources who spoke on condition, and specify what each said. really, did you sleep through half of college, or the 70s?

by Deep Throat II on Sep 13, 2009 10:58 pm • linkreport

Anyone who doubts the so-called "Unity" slate is not a continuation of the NIMBYs that have long dominated the CPCA needs to have their head examined.

by Fritz on Sep 14, 2009 9:34 am • linkreport

For me, this is yet another banner ad that the layer of Citizen's Associations need to be abolished. The associations like to work behind closed doors, and seldom, if ever really let their neighborhoods know what they are up to. It's time for them to go...

CPCA's actions over the past couple of months were repellent. When confronted with strong community opposition to their "all NIMBY, all the time" agenda, they cancelled their elections, then founded a new bogus trump group to tie up the issue in court, in a meaningless appeal that they will certainly lose, but could jeapordize smart growth development for years to come.

This isn't due process--it's a VERY small number of homeowners using their individual wealth and backdoor shenanigans to hold an entire neighborhood hostage. In the long term, the entire neighborhood suffers.

And, you are right. CPCA's few "old ways are the best ways" supporters are afraid to use real names. Indeed, in the upcoming CPCA election, they refused to release their slate of candidates.

The loading dock, by the way, is just the latest sticking point. Giant had innumerable proposals and tweaks over the years. The NIMBY crowd really does want nothing, nothing absolutely nothing.

by Michael North on Sep 14, 2009 1:09 pm • linkreport

I don't think citizens associations need to be abolished. What they ought to get is no particular standing in these proceedings. Instead they should at most be permitted to represent the interests of those members of the group who specifically sign on to the particular petition.

The problem is that they use their name as a cloak to purport to represent the entire neighborhood. But that's what we have elections of government officials (e.g., the ANC) for. But CPCA (and others) aren't government nor do they run their elections like any government in the U.S., with the possible exception of Florida.

by ah on Sep 14, 2009 1:46 pm • linkreport

As I understand it, CPCA has not appealed the Giant decision.

I agree that parties need to move on once the zoning process has been completed, but appeal rights are an integral part of that zoning process. The zoning board is essentially the trial court in that it considers the facts. The appeal court will consider issues of law that the zoning board is not in a position to rule on. I don't think any lawyer would advise a client to give up appeal rights for the good of the community.

If Giant is confident of the zoning board's decision, it will seek the permits without delay. If there are no issues for the appeals court to consider, the delay associated with the appeal will be minimal. The appeal will really only delay the project if there are significant issues, and we all have an interest in making sure those issues are resolved.

by CP Resident on Sep 14, 2009 2:36 pm • linkreport

In addition to the current CPCA president having canceled their elections, a former president of CPCA actually used repeated lynching analogies, with mentions of gangs and rope, the works, to characterize the criticisms that have erupted over CPCA's role. I couldn't believe my eyes when I got to the lynching and rope language, towards the end of this thing. And yet at another point in the long ramble, he compares the situation to a Gilbert & Sullivan opera. It's either offensive and inappropriate comparisons to lynchings, one of the most heinous moments in our nation's history, or it's akin to a comic operetta out of one of his old fading Playbills? Read it and weep. Out of touch doesn't begin to describe what's going on:

http://ward3dc.blogspot.com/2009/08/good-old-days-according-to-cpca.html

by Deep Throat II on Sep 14, 2009 2:39 pm • linkreport

@CP Resident
Maybe the 5 or 6 people who purport to be the WNNC do, but the rest of the community seems to not share that view.

by William on Sep 14, 2009 2:46 pm • linkreport

William,

I am naturally skeptical when I read broad assertions like, "the rest of the community seems not to share that view." What makes you so sure that you speak for a majority of Cleveland Park, "silent" or otherwise? I was at two well-attended meetings (standing room only) at Washington Hebrew, at which Giant presented and both a number of supporting opinions about the PUD AND serious concerns were expressed. The Northwest Current later reported that opinion was divided (June 18, 2008). There was another well-attended meeting at John Eaton School at which residents expressing concerns about the project seemed to outnumber those who offered unqualified support. The ANC and Zoning Commission hearings again presnted a mixed picture of views. Just asserting that the majority of Cleveland Park is one way or another doesn't necessarily make it so.

by Marlene on Sep 14, 2009 5:18 pm • linkreport

Loading docks for suburban type stores in urban settings are often a problem but I'm sure something can be worked out. One thing I do like about DCUSA is it's totally enclosed pass-through loading dock. I'm sure there are other innovative solutions if anyone wants to look around.

The term "NIMBY" historically comes from people who, while supporting social programs like low-income housing and half-way houses, didn't want them next door. One commenter above says Giant should put a half-way house or low-income housing there as revenge, implying those are undesirable things. I assume they wouldn't want either next door to them which, I guess, makes them a NIMBY. (All neighborhoods should share the duty of social programs like housing for the poor and rehab houses equally). The term doesn't really fit well in land use where concerns are usually about preservation, traffic, and making the best use of available building sites.

by Tom Coumaris on Sep 14, 2009 7:43 pm • linkreport

@ Tom, the loading dock in this proposal is enclosed and underground.

@Marlene, I have seen the list of 200 people that signed the petition touted by the WNNC as its supporters and know many who did not know their names were being used for this purpose.

Further, even if 200 people on that list all were in opposition, it is but a small percentage of the residents of Cleveland Park, much less the natural constituency for this store. (There would be roughly 6000 residents among the three ANC Single Member Districts adjacent to this development proposal)

by William on Sep 14, 2009 9:37 pm • linkreport

I went into the forum thinking I would vote a split ticket. I came out in favor of the Unity Slate. They are a much more diverse group and much better versed on the issues affecting Cleveland Park. The Reform Slate is all about Giant. They could not come up with coherent positions on any other issue.

by Cp Resident on Sep 17, 2009 1:02 pm • linkreport

I went to the CPCA candidate forum too. I was kind of undecided, and at first thought it would be an evenly matched crowd. But as the candidates presented, I was surprised how the Reform slate supporters seemed to be in the distinct minority (based on applause, questions, etc.). I agree that the Unity slate seemed more up to speed on the issues and came across as a real cross section of the neighborhood. Some of the Reform candidates (such as Roth) appeared solid enough. Gabe Fineman, running for secretary, announced that if elected he would write his own commentary on meetings in addition to minutes, which seemed kind of unusual. Jeff Davis, who is running for president, came across as sort of evasive when asked questions about some issues, but one guy, Rosella, just seemed rather weird and hostile. Bottom line: It was the Unity slate's night.

by Jill on Sep 17, 2009 10:50 pm • linkreport

Interesting commentary. My observations:

Fineman has been writing commentary and reports for neighborhood meetings for years. Check the Cleveland Park listserv for his ANC meeting reports from the 2000-2006 era. This seems like just continuation of something he clearly enjoys. More importantly, he is the one who pushed and created a CPCA Yahoo Group which has enabled more detailed discussion among members, something that certainly never happened under the current regime. The Unity slate has tried to kill the listserv, which leads to --

Are you kidding me? Unity Slate candidate John Chelen records phone conversations, like 75-80% of them by his own admission during the forum. His response to this question was completely bizarre and how anyone can objectively come away from the forum thinking that this is acceptable behavior is beyond my realm of comprehension.

Certainly in comparison, Jeff Davis seems composed, articulate and thoughtful, but hey, if you want to support a whacko truth-stretcher to represent the community, go for it.

Anne Large is clearly one of the stars of the community and would be a great leader for this organization.

Clearly the crowd was pro-Unity slate. After all, most of the Reform Slate are working professionals with kids, rather than retirees. If you are going to burn an evening on a neighborhood organization, it will be for the election, not a Forum.

by William on Sep 17, 2009 11:15 pm • linkreport

I should add, how is it that Ann Hamilton's participation in the appeal of the Giant case via the WNNC doesn't come up at all in the questioning?

by William on Sep 17, 2009 11:17 pm • linkreport

Funny. I saw a number of younger parents at the candidates' forum, being one myself. I walked over to the forum from back-to-school night at John Eaton School with some others, and they offered baby sitting at the forum, too. So it was pretty easy for those of us with kids to turn out. The forum was interesting and it's a big election -- why would anyone think that was burning an evening?

I didn't hear many questions on the Ahold Development; those asking questions seemed more interested in other issues, like on whether the candidates wanted CP's future to look more like Chevy Chase DC or Friendship.

by Jill on Sep 17, 2009 11:43 pm • linkreport

:Gabe Fineman, running for secretary, announced that if elected he would write his own commentary on meetings in addition to minutes, which seemed kind of unusual. "

This is indeed very unusual and completely inappropriate. I don't care if Fineman enjoys doing it or not. If he is elected Secretary of CPCA, he will need to stick with a neutral format for minutes and leave out his own "impressions." It is completely unprofessional to do that. The minutes are important in any organization whether for profit or non-profit.

Rosella basically imploded at the forum with his suggestion that honking your horn at a neighbor is a legitimate form of communication. The Reform Slate would be better off if they dumped him.

by Claire on Sep 18, 2009 8:14 am • linkreport

Claire,

Any comment on the similar outbursts from John Chelen?

by William on Sep 18, 2009 9:32 am • linkreport

I see this thread is still active -- but still no one has responded to the earlier request to show where the Giant developers committed in writing to provide discounted rents for their existing tenants. Maybe I missed it, but is there anything in the Zoning Commission order? Any other written commitment by Giant? Another smoke and mirrors promise by the developers?

by CP Truth on Sep 18, 2009 5:33 pm • linkreport

Perhaps Gabe Fineman's suggestion that he would write commentary about meetings meant that he would do this thing the kids do these days, where the kids share their opinions, "rap about the issues" and such, on the cyberhighway, or the blogosphere or something like that.

I agree it sounds totally inappropriate and would take CPCA's nice 1990s electronic Intertubes website that all 72 of us check semi-annually and turn it into something that more kids would want to "rap" about. Community associations cannot allow this.

by Deep Throat II on Sep 18, 2009 6:36 pm • linkreport

Yeah, "Rappin' "Gabe Fineman -- goin' for that "working professionals with kids, rather than retirees. [not] going to burn an evening on a neighborhood organization" vote. Twitter Dee,Twitter Dumb!

by Java Joe on Sep 18, 2009 8:18 pm • linkreport

The Cleveland Park Citizens Association voted tonight and the Reform Slate was soundly defeated. It seems that CP residents voted for thoughtful, balanced growth over the expansive development agenda of the "smart growth" Reform Slate. Apparently, a different silent majority has spoken. It is a great day for Cleveland Park.

by Claire on Sep 29, 2009 11:11 pm • linkreport

I've lived near the Giant since 1988, and was involved in the debate over the PUD Giant proposed ten years ago. I want to correct some points that have been made in this thread. Some comments say that Giant could have built a bigger store any time; but that is not really correct. Quite a bit of the parking lot is on land that is zoned residential, a point the opponents of both PUD proposals have made often. (BTW, the many of people opposed to the the first PUD proposal are opposed to the current proposal.)
So the only way Giant could build a bigger store within the current zoning would be to put the store in the space where the current store & the vacant building next to it are .

In the debate ten years ago, the opponents insisted that Giant should build only what would be permitted of right under the existing zoning. That debate was, actually, considerably nastier than the debate this time around. By proposing a Planned Unit Development Giant was offering to do more for the community, and give the community more input than would have been the case if Giant just did what it already has the right to do under the existing zoning.

Nonetheless, Giant's representatives were routinely treated with contempt at ANC meetings, so they finally gave up and said that Giant would build within the existing zoning. (BTW, had Giant done this, their delivery trucks would now be driving right past one of the current opponent's home with nothing like the sound protections offered this opponent in the PUD approved by the Zoning Commission.)

I guess the opponents had not carefully thought through what would happen if they got what they kept asking for, because though they cheered at the meeting where Giant announced its decision, within a week or two they were very unhappy with Giant's decision. Because Giant decided to build what it could build "of right" the company had no reason to listen to the community and it could make whatever design decisions it wanted -- including a decision to make the wall along Wisconsin Avenue one long brick wall. (The proposed PUD had had tables & chairs & store frontage designed to fit in with the Cactus Catina building.)

Eventually, the opponents (as I recall, they were acting as the Cleveland Park Historic Association, but I could be wrong) filed to have the current Giant store declared Historic, which would mean that Giant would be more restricted in what it could do. The District Planning Dept. stepped in and negotiated a settlement, under which the CPHA got something like veto power over Giant's design for the new store. I say "something like veto power" because the precise content of the settlement was not publicized, nor were subsequent Giant design proposals or CPHA responses to them. Occasionally, I would run into one of the people I knew were involved in the settlement and ask what was happening, but I could never get a clear description or answer. Based on my experience with these people, I assumed that they were rejecting any design Giant put forth.

Years passed and finally Nancy MacWood (then chair of the ANC) took action to get things moving again. That, apparently, led to Giant (Stop 'n Shop actually) coming up with the proposed PUD that it presented in 2006 at the meeting in the McLean Gardens hall. At that meeting, people I knew had been vehemently opposed to the first PUD proposal spoke favorably about this one.

Nonetheless, based on what I knew of these people from past experience, I expected that they would eventually find reasons to oppose the project and do everything they could to stop it. I wish my pessimism had not been born out by subsequent events, but it has. In fact, this time I have found myself listening to many of the same arguments that were made ten years ago, right down to the "Giant should build only what is allowed by the existing zoning" argument.

I think that in this controversy, one has to look at what people do, than at what they say. The opponents have been saying they are not opposed to a bigger, better store for years, but they always find ways to stop one from being built. So it is understandable why people like me -- and many others -- get pretty exasperated about them.

by Sally in Cathedral Hgts. on Oct 2, 2009 1:03 pm • linkreport

It was actually the CPCA that moved to have the Giant property designated as a landmark. Technically, the Giant falls outside of the Cleveland Park Historic District and as such was outside of the jurisdiction of the Cleveland Park Historical Society.

However, your other recollections of the history of this case are accurate, and seem to fail on the memories of those involved. I personally find it rather ironic that many of the opponents today are advocating for what Giant had proposed in 1999, the low-scale development of the Giant and its sister structure to the north, with openings on Wisconsin Avenue for amenities such as the Giant Bakery, the Giant Florist etc. However the issue with the PUD centered around parking and the parking structure Giant felt was necessary to accommodate the semi-deliveries, patron parking, employee parking and parking for the community.

As you correctly note, the "matter of right" solution that Giant came back with in the early 2000's included a pedestrian-deadening brick wall along the expanse of Wisconsin Avenue and open access deliveries impacting the same Idaho Street residents who are impacted by the current proposal. I do find it interesting that there was little concern for the Idaho residents then, but they are certainly convenient compatriots today.

by CPer on Oct 2, 2009 1:19 pm • linkreport

What a joke. What exactly are the 10 members of the opposition trying to preserve? The ugly empty store fronts? The charming painted trompe-l'oeil? The flower shop? The Starbucks? This is an embarrassment. Force this through, now.

by DiableRouge on Oct 12, 2009 12:53 pm • linkreport

I have removed two comments by an anonymous poster because they consisted primarily of namecalling by someone unhappy with the Unity Slate. They used names "commies", "hyper liberals", and references to Afghanistan.

Name calling is not appropriate in the comments on Greater Greater Washington. Disagreement is welcome and even encouraged, but we don't advance a discussion by calling the other side names.

by David Alpert on Oct 13, 2009 12:22 am • linkreport

It's really sad to see this happening to the residents of Cleveland Park. That miserable Giant down there by the Cathedral has been a dinosaur and an eyesore as long as I can remember, back to the late '80s when I lived in the District. ItÂ’s a dream shopping center, anchored in 1963.
I live in Bethesda now and there is a similar, though smaller-scale, project on the books to replace a decrepit, 1950s-era Safeway at the corner of Bradley Blvd and Arlington Rd. The current store is a blank, cramped, ugly shoebox that is resolutely inward focused, surrounded by an obnoxious, pothole- and oil stain-covered surface parking lot. It’s just a horrible little store—the kind of place you go for convenience, a glorified 7-11.
Safeway wants to replace it with a much larger store, just about filling the lot, above two stories of indoor parking, with windows and tables on the street. It would more than double the square footage of the current store and make it into a place where you would actually want to go buy groceries.
There is nothing revolutionary about the new design; itÂ’s your basic post-modern brick and glass facade, complete with obligatory corner turret, but anything is better than a brown, windowless box, plopped in the middle of a parking lot.
I already walk to the old place and I will surely walk to the new one and I will spend money there that I would otherwise have to get in my car and spend elsewhere. I would much rather have a place that occupies the whole lot and offers me something I want to buy, than a post-war relic made for housewives loading up their station wagons with the weekly load of SwansonÂ’s meals. And indoor parking will do away with the ugly lot covered with oil and grease that gets washed into the watershed every time it rains.
But sure enough, as soon as Safeway put up the sign announcing their intent to tear down the Baby Boomer relic and replace it with something modern, a tiny, vocal minority weighed in to protest. Three residents wrote letters complaining that indoor parking is unsafe, that the building, at 42 feet, was too high, that the overall mass of the place was just too much. And those three residents had to be placated, or at least addressed, in the planning board’s decision—despite the fact that the vast majority of the community would welcome the modern, new store.
On the one hand, you can understand the Baby BoomersÂ’ knee-jerk reaction against any kind of commercial development because so much of the development of their era was of the community-destroying kind. On the other hand, you have to question their resistance to anything that threatens the me-first, free parking, sprawl-topia that has ruined so much of this country.

by Stewart on Dec 3, 2009 9:05 pm • linkreport

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