City Paper Widget

Monday, July 14, 2014

1727 Massachusetts Avenue: "I'm Not Trying to Pull the Wool over Anybody's Eyes"

At its regular monthly meeting on July 9, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle voted unanimously to oppose the zoning application of Arnold K. Litman of Newlettman Associates LLC. ANC2B will ask D.C.'s Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) for time to review the application. Because the BZA doesn't meet in August, this will delay the application two months, assuming the request is granted.

The front door of Winthrop House
This application for a special exception will allow a room originally meant as a janitor's living space or workroom to be converted into office space. The room is located in the basement of a 142-unit building at 1727 Massachusetts Avenue, also known as Winthrop House. The application was the subject of the SALM blog post of July 9.

ANC2B Commissioner Leo Dwyer (district 07) started the discussion of this case by reading a resolution he had drafted opposing the special exception. (The property is in Dwyer's ANC district.) The resolution stated the applicants did not "reach out in a timely manner" to the ANC, nor did they receive relevant documents to review before meetings. The ANC had had no contact with the condominium association of Winthrop House. It was impossible to determine the impact of this request on the building residents.

After the resolution was read, moved, and seconded, Litman and two associates came before the ANC to discuss the case.

Litman said he was unable to attend an ANC committee meeting two days before owing to the death of a close friend. Dwyer said he was sorry for Litman's loss.

Litman told the ANC he had bought the unit ten years ago. The sellers had represented to Litman that the property was zoned for commercial activity. Since then, the space has been home to a printer, a fitness studio, and a massage therapist. The tenants of the building have seen this unit rented for years. Only recently did Litman find out the space required zoning approval for this type of activity.

Litman described the property as two rooms and a bathroom.

"It has no kitchen," he said.

The property has no direct access from outside. To get to it, you must go through the front door, past a desk which is manned 24/7, Litman said.

Litman then said he was also the president of the Winthrop House condominium association, and he had a letter, signed by himself, stating that the special exception would create no hardship in the building. Perhaps recognizing that this alone might not be enough, Litman also brought the vice-president of the condominium association, who agreed with Litman's statement, and had also signed the letter.

Litman was asked if the condomium board had voted on the matter. It had not.

Litman said every unit owner in Winthrop House had gotten a letter about the matter.

"I'm not trying to pull the wool over anybody's eyes," he said.

After Litman's testimony, there was some discussion. There was  a friendly amendment to the original resolution. The friendly amendment changed the language so that the ANC requested a delay to the BZA hearing, but did not object outright to the project.

The resolution opposing the project can be seen on ANC2B's web site here -- about half-way down the page. As of this writing, the resolution published on the this web page is NOT the resolution that the ANC passed -- it is Dwyer's original resolution. Dwyer said in an email the post would soon be changed to reflect the friendly amendment.

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