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Monday, September 22, 2008

Hearing on Slum Historique Zoning Variance Tomorrow

A neighbor alerted me to a zoning hearing set for tomorrow morning regarding the infamous properties at 9th and Q Streets and Rhode Island Avenue. Owner Michael Sendar seeks a variance from the properties' R-4 designation to allow general retail (but there is no identified tenant or retail use). Purportedly, the proposed zoning relief will enable Mr. Sendar to sell the buildings and bring life back to the old buildings.

Although this plan of action makes sense to me, I am against the variance because I am skeptical of granting a variance without knowing what business, or at least type of business, will benefit from it. I think that the R-4 designation should be respected unless the owner brings to the neighbors a specific business--or at very least a development plan that includes a general business use--that's un-offensive to the neighbors (e.g., I don't want to see a liquor store, another weird religious cult bookstore, or a takeout joint fill this spot -- something's not always better than nothing). I concede that it may have been a mistake to designate at least one of these particular properties as R-4 in the first place, given its location on the busy intersection of 9th and Rhode Island. Nonetheless, the designation is in place, and until Sendar or a future owner presents a plan for bringing a business to the site with a general idea of what that business will be, it should remain R-4 in my opinion.

The hearing will be held in Suite 220 South 441 4th Street, NW tomorrow (September 23) at 9:30 a.m. If you have any questions, you can call the Office of Zoning at 202-72706311.


Mr. Q said...

Good points Shaw Rez...

Would it be possible for our ANC Commissioner (or perhaps even our someone from our Councilman's office?) to address your issues?

Does this variance come with any contingencies about what type of business can go there? What input will the neighborhood have to make sure we don't have a new Subway at 9th and Q?

ML said...

In other zoning news, have also seen public notices for zoning variance hearings recently on Kelsey Gardens and the Watha T. library sites.

On I'm seeing...

10/30/2008 ZC 08-14 Kelsey Gardens - Consolidated PUD & Related Map Amendment @ Square 421, Lots 67 and 68

9/23/2008 BZA 2C01 17839 Application of D.C. Public Library

Come on Shaw development!

si said...

Sendar case hasnt come up yet, bza is backed up. I think its next. you can watch online.

Alexander M. Padro said...

Re: types of businesses allowable under the proposed zoning relief from the BZA, and it's important to note that a variance is sought, not rezoning, which would come from the Zoning Commission, not the Board of Zoning Adjustment:

The BZA application asks for neighborhood serving retail to be allowed, with a prohibition against a bar/lounge or liquor store. In addition, the relevant business classification also prohibits fast food, but would allow a sit down dining establishment that serves alcohol.

The reason why we need to have a variance now is that every prospective buyer for the property has refused to close on the deal when they realize that they would have to undertake the request for a variance themselves, which would mean that it would be a minimum of six months before they would know whether or not they would be able to install retail on the ground floor of these buildings, and that's been the deal killer every time. And when Sendar tried to develop the property himself with a third floor, the Histroic Preservation Office told him the addition would not be allowed. The result is that either a new owner must be found for the property, and in order to do that, a variance must be in place.

In short, if you never want to see anything happen with these prominent buildings, then you shouldn't support the variance request. But if you're tired of seeing nothing but blight at this corner, the variance is the only way anything will happen there in this decade.

--Hon. Alexander M. Padro
Commissioner, ANC 2C01

Shaw Rez said...

Thanks for the insight, Alex.

As I said, the plan of action certainly makes sense to me, and I definitely want to see these noteworthy properties de-blighted. No less, I am hesitant of a variance in this context where there is no planned redevelopment or no specific business seeking to move in.