of environmental impact was not previously considered by the Metro Board. The 1971 hearing was defective in this regard and Metro will be ordered to hold a new public hearing on the A-9a segment. The hearing will be limited, however, to the location and design of vent shafts in the vicinity of 37th and Yuma Streets, North West. The Court finds that all other aspects of the A-9a route segment here disputed were previously accorded due consideration and opportunity for public comment. There is no likelihood that those other aspects, including route location, would be so affected by a public hearing on location and design of vent shafts as to warrant a full hearing de novo on all aspects of the A-9a route segment.
The Court does not accept Plaintiffs' broad reading of the word "details" in Paragraph 8 of the Bootery decree.
There is no need for a public hearing on each minor "detail" of Metro plans, but only on the major elements of the plan such as stations, routes, station access points and fan and vent shafts. The word "major" in this sense should not be defined by arguments over semantics, the cost of construction, or size of the facility. The real public interest in opportunity to be heard should be measured in the impact of the facility on people affected, whether that be by actual displacement, taking of property, or removal of trees and altering the character of a neighborhood. Plaintiffs have no absolute right to block the subway or the vent shafts, but they do have a right to be heard on the design and location of those facilities. This process "subjects officials to the differing views of competing interest groups and forces them to take account of prevailing views while the project plans are still being formulated."
Defendant has contended that only general plans for the vent shafts were in existence at the time of the public hearing and that those general plans were available at the hearing. It is clear that the vent shafts locations were not discussed at the public hearing, that their proposed general location was not included in the "information kits" distributed to area residents, and that they were not noted on the large stage maps on display at the hearing. Defendant contends that diagrams showing the proposed general locations were among piles of maps and diagrams on large tables outside the hearing room.
The Court rejects any implication that this was adequate notice, especially in light of the fact that the Notice of Hearing affirmatively stated that "the location of these facilities cannot presently be determined." The same rationale applies to Metro's argument that Plaintiffs could have discovered more information about the shafts by investigating further at Metro offices. If the required public hearings are to be meaningful the burden must be on Metro to provide adequate notice concerning items which are likely to be the focus of interest on the part of persons affected.
Defendant's argument of laches is without merit. Aside from the affirmative representations at the hearing that vent shafts locations would not be determined until the Summer or Fall of 1972,
Plaintiff Saunders requested soon after the public hearing information and consultation as to vent shafts "when the very earliest staff planning is taking place."
Despite this Plaintiffs were not further advised until September, 1972, when they were informed that the vent shafts locations had been finally determined. Since that time Plaintiffs have vigorously pursued their interests and Metro has been on notice of their concern.
Once on notice of Plaintiffs' concern after their September, 1972, meeting, Metro did act in a seemingly bona fide manner to consider Plaintiffs' objections, including preparation of a formal study of alternative vent shafts locations and configurations. Yet private meetings with certain concerned citizens cannot suffice for a public hearing, for a solution offered by one party at a private meeting might be the cause of great consternation on the part of an interested party not present and unaware of the discussions. At least some of the present Plaintiffs were not among those privately consulted.
On consideration of the equitable factors involved, the Court finds little injury to Metro from the limited injunction which will issue, preventing construction of the vent shafts until the residents have been heard as to their design and location in the neighborhood. Metro will be allowed to continue its planning and begin construction on the other elements of the A-9 route, and on the contiguous A-6 route. The public interest clearly lies in complete and meaningful public participation in Metro's planning process. Plaintiffs would suffer irreparable injury in the removal of trees from their neighborhood and, perhaps more importantly, in the derogation of Metro's obligations under the law.
Defendant will be directed to hold a public hearing on vent shafts location and design on the A-9a route segment, in accordance with the procedures outlined in paragraphs seven and eight of the Bootery decree.
Appropriate Orders will be entered.