City Paper Widget

Monday, July 21, 2014

1740 NJ Ave: Trust Everybody, But Cut the Cards

An attorney told Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6E/Shaw July 1 that there was no reason to vote against her project, because she would immediately ask for a postponement of the planned zoning hearing. But ANC6E voted to oppose the project anyway.

The property from across Rhode Island Avenue
Attorney Meredith Mouldenhauer of Griffin, Murphy, Moldenhauer & Wiggins, LLP appeared before the ANC as part of a team with developer Jimmy Edgerton of Newton Street Development 3, LLC. The team aims to develop a property at 1740 New Jersey Avenue NW, a wedge-shaped piece of land at the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue and S Street, which has been vacant from at least 2011. The house on the property now is in poor condition. The current aim of the developers is to build a single-family home and an eight-unit condo on the property.

The single-family home can be built "by right", meaning, without asking for any zoning relief. But the eight-unit condo needs zoning variances for several reasons, including lot occupancy and parking. The existing building is not zoning-compliant because it covers 100% of the lot, and because it has no parking. ANC endorsement for these variance requests will help it move more smoothly through DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA).

From remarks made at the meeting, it is clear that the developers and the ANC have been negotiating for quite some time about this project. There still has not been a meeting of the minds. The developers won't go below eight units; the ANC won't agree to eight units.

"I have been talking to the developers for months now and I have expressed strong opposition to their plans," said Commissioner Kevin Chapple (district 02).

The proposed development in Chapple's district, and he lives three houses down from 1740 New Jersey Avenue.

"Everyone that I've spoken to in my district is against such a dense unit at this location," he said.

When it became clear that Chapple was dead-set against the plan and the most of the ANC would probably vote with him, Mouldenhauer backtracked and promised to ask the BZA for a postponement of their hearing. But Chapple was not inclined to let the matter rest at that.

"We'd have to take your word for it," he said, about Moldenhauer's promise to ask for a postponement. 

There was some consternation in the audience that someone would not take an attorney at her word.

"She's a member of the bar!" exclaimed an attorney sitting next to me.

It was also mentioned that, if Mouldenhauer went back on her word now, she would never get another favorable hearing before the ANC again.

But Chappell seemed to want to be better safe than sorry, and put forward a motion to oppose the zoning variances. It passed 6-1. The lone vote against was Commissioner Marge Maceda (district 05).

After the vote ANC6E chair Alexander Padro (commissioner for district 01) said: "We welcome the opportunity to continue to work with you. We just wanted to have a placeholder to express our concerns, so you'd understand where we were coming from."

Online information indicates this property was sold in December 2013 for $775,000.

The blog District Source has also written about this case.

The documents related to this case can be examined by going to the BZA's Interactive Zoning Information System and putting case number 18794 into the search bar. A request to postpone the BZA hearing until September has been recently added to the file.

The remark "Trust everybody, but cut the cards" is attributed to American humorist Finley Peter Dunne.

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