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Home​NewsSt. Joseph’s Expansion Raises Concerns

St. Joseph’s Expansion Raises Concerns

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C met on March 13 via WebEx. Commissioners Christy Kwan (6C01), Leslie Merkle (6C02, secretary), Commissioner Jay Adelstein (6C03), Mark Eckenwiler (6C04, chair), Joel Kelty (6C05, treasurer), Commissioner Patricia Eguino (6C06) and Tony Goodman (6C07, vice chair) were in attendance.

Real Estate Attorney Derick Wallace represented St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church (313 Second St. NE), at the March meeting, briefing the ANC on the church’s application for expansion into a nearby alley. The church, which has been a part of the community for over 150 years, plans to “modernize and expand” its physical infrastructure, he said.

Since zoning regulations prevent the addition of single, freestanding buildings to the existing site, the church plans to expand current buildings to “create a more gracious and useful space to allow for community meetings as well as to continue its outreach and all the other services that it provides to Capitol Hill,” Wallace said.

A portion of the alley, which runs from Second Street NE to Third Street NE, would be closed as a result of the expansion, Wallace explained. Public space, however, would remain sufficient for vehicles to enter from Third Street, come into the alley, turn around, back up and exit the alley.

An alley resident spoke in opposition to the project and its potential impact on vehicular traffic, delivery services and egress. Robinson does not see “any general benefit to the public” that would result from the closure and noted the importance of “maintaining the public’s ability to traverse the alley, especially for those who routinely use it.”

Treasurer Kelty noted he was “sympathetic” to Robinson’s concerns and inquired about a possible straightening of the “contorted” alley through a land swap. Wallace noted that a land swap has been “contemplated” with DDOT, but noted that there is “no finalization” at this time.

Given that cars would still have sufficient space to turn around in the alley, Chair Eckenwiler spoke in support of the project. “To the extent that turn maneuvers need to be made, I feel like that’s an adequate alternative,” he said. “I’m not really seeing the material impacts here.”

Commissioner Adelstein raised additional concern about an existing utility pole in the public space the church is proposing to take. Pepco, Washington Gas and Verizon have all been contacted about the project, Wallace stated. Ensuring that service is maintained in the alley and for neighboring residents, he said, is a top priority.

Treasurer Kelty echoed concern about the utility pole and noted that the project may be “impossible to move forward” given his previous experience working with Verizon. “If you’re not able to get Verizon to relocate that utility pole, then this idea doesn’t work,” Kelty said. “Then we’ve turned over public property to a private entity and I think that’s problematic.”

The commission voted to send a provisional letter of support for the project to the Department of Buildings (DOB) Surveyor’s Office, noting a need for a final resolution to the relocation of the existing utility pole and encouraging the applicant to continue their ongoing dialogue with DDOT.

Other Matters

The commission voted to support an extension on the review period for the public space improvement permit application at 420 H St. NE. take an appeal for the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) permit that was issued for 638 I St. NE for the alteration of rooftop architectural element as the permit allows construction atop the cornice in violation of the rooftop architectural element provision.

ANC 6C will meet next on April 10 at 7 p.m. via WebEx. Visit anc6c.org to learn more about the commission and register to attend the meeting.

Sarah Payne is a reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at sarahp@hillrag.com

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