The Corner Forum
Saturday, June 28, 2003
Issue #36

ANC Committee Supports Variances

By Cody Rice, 310 9th St. NE

Mr. Rice is an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (6A03) and the chairman of the ANC's Economic Development & Zoning Committee.

I wanted to provide you and your neighbors with some more information on the new addition and older carriage house/garage at 1215 E St. NE. The owner of this property is applying for variances that would allow both the addition and the brick carriage house/garage on the lot.

It can sometimes be difficult to follow the twists and turns of the permitting, preservation, zoning, and construction process in our neighborhood. I'm still learning who to call and which offices to visit to get the information the ANC and the community needs.

I think it is a little strange to see construction before variances are granted, but the owner does have a permit (B447208, issued last July) to construct the addition. The permit is conditioned on the demolition of the existing wooden porch and carriage house/garage. This would keep the building within the lot-occupancy requirements.

At this time, the owner is applying to the BZA to be able to keep the garage. With the new addition, it's the garage that pushes the building over the lot occupancy requirements. If the owner's variance application before Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) is denied, the old brick carriage house/garage will have to come down. (Not being in an official historic district, there are no protections for older structures like the garage.) Alternatively, the owner could meet the lot occupancy requirements by removing the new addition. However, he would need a new building permit for demolition, as the addition appears nearly complete from the exterior.

The lot occupancy allowed as a matter of right for R-4 Districts is 60 percent. However, BZA regularly grants special exceptions for additions up to 70 percent lot occupancy, after looking at effects on light, air, privacy and streetscape. Before the renovation started, the building and garage occupied 72 percent of the lot as a grandfathered condition. If approved, the lot occupancy would be 73.7% — slightly higher than previously, and slightly higher than what is routinely allowed through the special exception process.

If the garage were to be demolished, the lot occupancy with the addition would only be 53.7 percent, so the addition could be even bigger (96 sq ft) on each level without exceeding the lot occupancy.

The 6A zoning committee voted unanimously to recommend that ANC 6A send a letter to BZA supporting the application for variances. In the opinion of the committee, the variances would not have an undue impact on neighboring properties, and would allow a historic (or at least old) brick structure to be retained.

Despite the great coverage of the issue in the Corner Forum, no immediate neighbors attended the ANC 6A zoning committee meeting. However, I was able to pass along the comments from Ms. Teresia Bush, including her support for retaining the garage. There was also a supportive comment from a resident of Emerald Street NE.

The ANC will vote on the committee recommendation at the July 10 meeting at Miner Elementary School (600 block of 16th Street NE). The meeting will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Everyone is encouraged to attend. If you attend, you will likely get a chance to meet your new neighbor, the Rev. Neavelle Coles. §