In an unusual move, the Zoning Commission (ZC) decided at its meeting Monday night not to set down the Erkiletian/Shakespeare Planned Unit Development (PUD) at 501 I Street, but to postpone consideration until a later date, set for Feb. 26. It took this action because of the firm opposition to the project expressed by Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6D.
The ZC hopes the one-month delay will provide an opportunity to narrow the differences between the ANC and the developers before the ZC takes up the case.
At the meeting, Office of Planning (OP) representative Stephen Cochran said that the project calls for two buildings on the parcel at I and Fifth Streets SW. A 49 foot, four-story plus townhouse building in the northeast corner would contain market rate and required affordable housing, some for theater fellows and actors, with theater offices on part of the ground floor and below ground parking and support facilities. An annex, located on the dogleg would be a five-floor, fifty food building with additional residences for theater fellows. Cochran said the penthouse would not be occupied. The project seeks zoning amendments to allow for changes in density and use of the property.
In a public statement at the Jan. 24th meeting, OP recommended a set down, which allowing the project to move ahead towards a formal hearing at a later date. Representative Cochran said that the amendments required were consistent with the District Comprehensive Plan and with the neighborhood conservation policy in an area that he said had a 100-foot tall apartment building across the street as well as other tall buildings and a metro station.
ANC Opposition holds great weight
The Chairman of the five-member ZC, Anthony Hood, then opened a lively discussion among the ZC members by saying he was “very disturbed” because of ANC opposition to the proposal and that in his view it would be a “heavy lift” for the developers to overcome ANC opposition.
“I guess what’s surprising is that ANC 6D is a fairly progressive, engaged and responsive ANC,” said Zoning Commissioner Michael Turnbull, like his colleagues noting the experience of ANC 6D with development over recent years.
“I’m just kind of surprised that ANC is so opposed to setting it down. It’s troubling.”
Commissioner Peter Shapiro said he was in favor of set-down, and that he didn’t understand why the ANC was opposed, saying he did not feel the ANC had detailed their concerns sufficiently in their letter.
Much of the discussion centered not on the details of the project, but on whether the ANC and the developers would be more likely to narrow their differences if the project were set down immediately or if there was a delay before setting down the project.
Hearing delayed to ‘close the gap’
In the end, three ZC Commissioners (Hood, May, Turnbull) thought it would be better to delay a set down, while two (Miller and Shapiro) said they favored setting it down immediately.
The Zoning Commission did not take a formal vote, but on the basis of this 3-2 split decided to defer consideration of the set down until a Feb. 26th meeting in the hopes that the developers, the ANC, the Office of Planning and the community could met for discussions and ‘close the gap a little bit more.’ The ZC would then deal with the set-down at the February hearing, pending submissions from concerned parties.