City Paper Widget

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Columbia Heights Property Tries to "Make It Legal"

CORRECTION: When first posted, the committee chair was identified as Patrick Brown. His name is Patrick Nelson. Apologies for the error.

2807 Sherman Avenue NW, a property with a colorful recent history, will get a facelift if the new owners can get some zoning relief from DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). So one owner and his attorney were before a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street on February 23 to ask the committee to recommend support to the full ANC.

2807 Sherman Ave (to right of streetlight) in May 2014
"This has been a nuisance property for a long time," said Patrick Brown Nelson, chair of
ANC1B's Zoning, Preservation & Development Committee.

"There were like 20 people [living] there," said Brown Nelson of the building which is located between Girard Street and Gresham Place.

On-line records (see .pdf here) show the then-owner of 2807 Sherman Avenue was arrested in August 2012 for assault on a police officer with a dangerous weapon. On the same day, other people at the same address were arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to use.

In the early morning hours of January 25, 2013, a fire broke out in the floor and walls of 2807 Sherman Avenue, according to a tweet from the DC Firefighters Association. A post with photographs on the District of Columbia Fire Department website (about half-way down the page here) says the fire broke out between the second and third floors and seven residents were "forced into the freezing pre-dawn cold" by the fire.

New owners

The house was sold in June 2014 for $417,000, according to online records. One of the current owners, Matt Medvene, appeared before the ZPD Committee with attorney Martin Sullivan of Sullivan & Barros.

The new owners did not get off to a good start with the building. Medvene told the committee he originally hired an architect from Baltimore who was unfamiliar with DC regulations. While Medvene was out of the country, he said, the architect went ahead with demolition and started building without city permission. This unauthorized construction included a structure on the top of the building, which is still now half-completed. The unauthorized work was stopped and Medvene had to pay three fines totalling several thousand dollars, he said, before he could start the process of making the up and out expansion legal. Medvene blamed the Baltimore-based architect for the illegal construction, and said he is no longer working with him.

"We're making it legal," he said.

The owner said he planned to have a two-unit building, and live in one of the units. The building is already a two-unit building, he said, "with separate addresses".

Although the building will be taller, it does not require zoning relief for height, as it is still within what the owner can do "by right". In addition, it is not located in a historic district, so no review by DC historic preservation authorities will be necessary. Finally, the neighboring house to the north is already taller than 2807 Sherman Street (see photo). Medvene said this neighbor has indicated support for his expansion.

The building requires zoning relief for lot occupancy. It is already over the maximum lot occupancy for the zone -- 60% permitted, 70% existing. It is unclear how the building got that way. Medvene reported the previous owner had no documentation about whether he made alterations to the house.

Both committee members and the owner said they did not like the color of the house.

"It looks kind of putrid," the owner said. "We'll be repainting. We're looking at a cool gray."

Committee decision

The committee voted, 5-1, to support the request for zoning relief. The matter will probably be considered by the full ANC at its next regularly scheduled meeting on March 5, at 7pm, at a location to be determined.

The applicants told the committee their case was scheduled for a public hearing at the BZA on April 7.

The documents relating to this case can be accessed by going to the DC government's Interactive Zoning Information System and putting case number 18960 into the search bar.

This is the first meeting for ANC1B's Zoning, Preservation & Development Committee. It will take up most of the business formally handled by the ANC's Design Review Committee, which has been disbanded. The February 23 meeting was a make-up for a meeting that was originally scheduled for February 17, but then cancelled due to snow.

(Photo credit: Google Street View)

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