Is anyone aware of Councilman Evans's proposed bill regarding churches and historic designations? As reported by the Washington Business Journal, the bill would "exempt all church-owned property from historic designation -- so long as the church objects and submits a statement saying that historic designation 'would impose a substantial burden on that institution's religious exercise.'"
If I understand Evans's bill correctly (and please correct me if I'm wrong), it seems like it would give churches even more power over their surrounding neighborhoods than they already have. In a city where churches can set up shop as a matter of right in residential zones (even in a row home surrounded by residential homes), the concept of allowing churches to opt out of historic designation decisions troubles me greatly. It seems like a knee-jerk reaction to one particular unpopular historic landmark designation that made headlines (the HPRB's Third Church of Christ, Scientist, landmark designation) .
I think this bill could have grave implications throughout D.C. and poignantly in Shaw and Mount Vernon Square. For example, I fear that through this bill, Shiloh Baptist Church could be enabled to rip down its currently historically protected vacant properties on 8th and 9th Streets to a) avoid paying vacant property taxes; b) build parking lots; or c) throw up non-historically appropriate monstrosities (see, e.g., the family life center on 9th). I think the historic designation is the reason that these beautiful old buildings are still a part of the fabric of our neighborhood.
Richard Layman, who apparently shared a similar view on the bill as me, reports that the bill has been withdrawn. WHEW!