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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Is Evans Proposing To Give More Power to Churches?

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Richard Layman, who apparently shared a similar view on the bill as me, reports that the bill has been withdrawn.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!


Anonymous said...

we need a council member, not a politician/part timer like Jack, representing us. C'man Cary Silverman, we need you!!!!!

si said...

im glad it was withdrawn, that was a total stinker.

Anonymous said...

You church loathing, godless, beelzebubs sure have axes to grind with the churches (unless it's the MCC) !!!! what have they done to cause you so much ire ? And another thing, save yourselves a lot of disappointment - Silverman ain't gonna be Councilman for Ward 2.

Shaw Rez said...

By absolutely no means am I opposed to churches generally.

In terms of historic designations, though, I think it would be a slap in the face of the neighborhood to allow a church to "opt out." It's fundamentally unfair to the surrounding property owners.

Likewise, I think zoning is too lenient. A church needn't even consult, much less get the approval of neighbors before opening up in a residential row home. That's outrageous, I think, especially given that churches are property tax exempt (unless talking about vacant property).

Charles Walker said...

I guess I must be one of those church loathing, godless beelzebubs to which anonymous 4:16PM refers. I am admittedly and proudly godless, though I do not accept the designation of beelzebub (as I do not have a belief in such things), and I have other priorities than loathing churches.

My view is that churches should not have special privileges - not MCC, not Shiloh, not Third Baptist, not any of them. Churches should not be treated by the law any differently from any other organization. Likewise, if any church has its windows shot out, then the perpetrators should be found and brought to justice, just as if it were any other organization.