City Paper Widget

Monday, March 24, 2014

ANC1B "Great Weight" Fails Meridian Hill Property Owners

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street twice voted last year to support the exclusion of individual properties from the soon-to-be-created Meridian Hill Historic District. However, D.C's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) did not agree with the ANC. It voted on March 6 for the properties to be included in the historic district.

Augustana Church
According to an article starting on page one of the March 19 edition of the Dupont Current newspaper (32-page .pdf available here), Kim Williams of HPRB staff persuaded the board to include both 95-year-old Augustana Church (2100 New Hampshire Avenue NW) and a row of 1930's-era townhouses (2313, 2315, 2317, and 2319 15th Street) as contributing parts of the historic district. This will make it more difficult for the property owners to renovate, modify, or demolish the properties -- see HPRB page for homeowners here.

ANC1B voted to support the exclusion of Augustana Church and the row houses at its regular monthly meeting of November 2013 -- see SALM blog posts of November 11, 2013, and October 30, 2013, respectively.

Agencies of the D.C. government, including the HPRB, are required by Section 1-309.10 (a)(3)(A) of the D.C. Code to give "great weight" to ANC decisions. This means agencies must acknowledge receiving ANC recommendations and respond to them in writing. This means it is often easier for DC agencies to agree with ANC decisions, since disagreeing with an ANC may mean having to compose a well-reasoned response explaining why the "great weight" has been disregarded. However, there is no obligation to agree with ANC recommendations.

2313, 2315, 2317, and 2319 15th Street
According to an HPRB document (page 41 of a 119-page .pdf here), the 15th Street row houses were originally on a list of "non-contributing" buildings to the district. It is easier to get permission for renovations and modifications for non-contributing buildings in a historic district.

However, the buildings face, and are visable from, Meridian Hill Park across 15th Street. Williams apparently convinced the Board to remove them from the list, saying they are "an important contributor", according to the Current.

In the same article, HPRB members said inclusion in the historic district would not present insurmountable hurdles to homeowners. Members said the review process is speedy and few requests are shot down. Churches are often given special consideration, a Board member said.

See the recommendation by Historic Preservation Office that Meridian Hill be designated a historic district here.

See design guidelines for the new historic district here.

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