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Home​NewsBZA Postpones Vote in Pacci's Expansion Case

BZA Postpones Vote in Pacci’s Expansion Case

Pacci’s has got a little more time.

On Wednesday, March 13, the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) was set to vote on a request from the Lincoln Park Trattoria that would have allowed the restaurant to expand into the top floor of their location at 106 13th St. SE.

The board requested additional information from Pacci’s, postponing the vote in the case until April 10.

Pacci’s has asked BZA to approve a use variance, an exception allowing them to use the top floor of the building for a purpose expressly forbidden in the residentially-zoned area where it is located.

Both OP and BZA have said that this is the most difficult zoning change to get. “The intent of the zoning of regulation is generally not to permit an expanded use of a non conforming use,” OP wrote in a report on the case, saying this was to protect residential areas from commercial encroachment.

Other experts have said this caution is in part because such changes will apply to all future occupants of the building, whether or not they work with the community.

Read story from March 9: Pacci’s Says if District Denies Exception, Restaurant Could Close

Blowback to Straw Poll

A straw poll at a March 6 appeared to indicate the board would deny the application. Afterward, many neighbors came out in support of the expansion, with more than 1200 signing on to a letter of support sent to BZA by Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D) on March 12.

But it was unclear if that effort and others by individual neighbors who had emailed the Office of Planning (OP) and DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D) would have an impact as BZA had officially closed the record.

On March 13, BZA Chairman Fred Hill added the letter from Allen to the record but declined a similar request from the public. “I don’t think we would necessarily get any new information other than people being in support of this application,” Hill said, noting there had already been significant public testimony and letters in official hearings on the case.

Calls and messages had also been sent to OP and DC Council, he noted.

But Hill asked the public to remember that the BZA are volunteers paid a stipend. “We are not elected officials, and we are not supposed to be dealing in ex parte communication individually in any way. So all you are doing is hurting your [sic] case if you try to reach out to us individually,” he said, apparently linking the public and Pacci’s. “So I would definitiely not do that any more.”

Hill, who was the one commissioner to go on the record in favor of the application at the March 6 hearing, said BZA board members, or commissioners, must follow the regulations to determine if they are or are not met, taking into consideration information from other city agencies and affected parties.

Office of Planning slide showing burden of proof for a use variance, the type of zoning change requested by Pacci's. https://dcoz.dc.gov/page/varianceHe reminded attendees of the 3-prong test for a use variance in the regulations:

  • Is it an exceptional property? -or-
  • Is there an exceptional or undue hardship on the property owner that means they cannot meet the criteria within the matter-of-right use?
  • AND: Can the exception be granted without negetive impact on the public, and in a way not inconsistent with zoning intent?

More Info Requested

The BZA asked Pacci’s for a concise summary of their argument relative to the standards above.

Most of the requested proof goes to the question of whether maintaining or building top floor residential in the building constitutes an “undue hardship” for owner Spiro Goldiasis.

Commissioners want additional information on the state of the top floor prior to the most recent renovation and the reasons changes were made. They also wanted an estimate of the cost of the renovation to make the top floor residential.

“The applicant argues that the units were removed due to neglect,” Hill said. “I didn’t see where the neglect was.”

Commissioner Tammy Stidham asked what use of the second floor was made by the owners of Lincoln Wine Bar, which closed in 2018. “That gets a little bit to the intent when the owner was purchasing the property,” she said.

Stidham noted that there is a record related to the commercial use of the building but not for a residential use. “It’s unclear to me if there was ever a legal residential use of the second floor,” she said. She asked if additional information could be provided, but it was unclear to whom that request was directed.

BZA asked if utilities on the three floors are separately metered. They requested a functional layout for the second floor; what efforts were undertaken to make or market the top floor useful as residential; and records demonstrating the complete renovation work was done under a permit.

Hill noted that in a second report on the case, OP allowed that if the BZA found that economics in the case were an undue hardship, they would agree that the use of the top floor would not be detrimental to the public.

Vote Moved to April 10

The new deadline for materials from Pacci’s is March 22. OP can respond to the new materials until March 29. Finally, the ANCs have until April 5 for a response. A final vote would be taken by BZA on Wednesday, April 10.

“I am just going to reiterate again that the public is doing no favors to the applicant by reaching out to the board,” Hill said. “The record is closed except for the information asked for by the applicant and responses by parties.”

Learn more about the Board of Zoning Adjustment and its members by visiting https://dcoz.dc.gov/page/about-board-zoning-adjustment. Watch the full March 13 meeting here (discussion of Pacci’s case begins around 1:05).

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