Reviewing BZA 19377

A Brief History

On March 18, we held an ANC5E01 Single Member District Meeting at the Edgewood Arts Building. At that meeting, Boundary Companies and Elm Street Development presented their proposed development at 3025 4th St NE. They are working in  coordination with the Missionary Society of Saint Paul the Apostle, better known as the Paulist Fathers.

On April 18, the proposed development was presented to the full ANC5E Meeting at Friendship-Armstrong Charter School. You can view the video of the meeting here and the presentation here.
 
On Tuesday, May 16 the 10 members of ANC5E will vote on whether to support the project, oppose the project, or provide no input to the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). The BZA will meet on May 31 to decide whether to approve the special exception sought for the project. The BZA is required to give “great weight” to the input of the ANC.

 

Process and Priorities

I want to thank my fellow Commissioners and the community for taking a considerable amount of time and effort in reviewing this project as we all seek to build our community together.  

The priorities that I sought in reviewing the project were:
(1) to provide additional housing for a growing community, including an affordable component;
(2) to preserve as much green space as possible as former institutional uses are converted to residential; and 
(3) to minimize the impact of new development on the existing community during and after construction.
 
To this end, I had hundreds of conversations and email exchanges with the developers, the community, and my fellow Commissioners about this project. 
 

Concerns

Like many members of the community, I continue to have concerns about the process by which this site was divided and the parcels considered at different times by different bodies. In 2008, the Zoning Commission reviewed case ZC 07-027, which was brought by the Paulist Fathers and their partners EYA. This case only covered the land that became Chancellor's Row and enabled 237 homes to be built. 

Since then, the Paulist Fathers have vacated their building  and Washington Leadership Academy and Lee Montessori Public Charter Schools have signed long-term leases to serve 800 students. 
 
The ANC is now asked to consider only the remaining green space, which is the 5.5 acres sited along 4th St NE. The development team of Boundary Companies, Elm Street Development, and the Paulist Fathers is proposing 62 homes and a new 20,000 square foot religious building for the fathers.
 
It seems to me that a holistic review would not have permitted 300 homes, 2 charter schools in 100,000 square foot building, and a new 20,000 square foot religious building to be built on this site in the way that is currently proposed, especially when compared to the Josephite Site in Brookland or the Redemptorist site in Edgewood. However, the ANC is not the body to make a judgement on the legal process the Paulist Fathers chose to follow.
 

ANC Requests

Based on the concerns stated above and multiple community consultations, I have pushed the development to be more compact, to preserve more green space, and to provide additional affordable units. I hope that the Paulist Fathers and their development partners will take into account this feedback in their final proposal on Tuesday.
 
I also have repeatedly requested that the Paulist Fathers make some sort of commitment to maintaining their new building for a religious or educational purpose. They have declined this request. You can see a list of the requests and responses, provided by the development team.
 
As a result of community and commission feedback, the development team has indicated they are considering increasing the affordable component. I have strongly pushed for this as I believe a more diverse community is a stronger one. 
 
Additionally, the development team has offered the use of the playground and open green space remaining after development is complete to the broader community for recreation. The development team has also pledged to develop a detailed tree preservation plan.
 
The development team has moved the location of the new Paulist building to a minimum of 65 feet from existing homes and the new townhomes a minimum of 40 feet from existing homes. The development team has pledged that no construction traffic or residential traffic will be routed through the Chancellor’s Row neighborhood. 

Going Forward

Finally, I think we can all agree that we need to do something to preserve more of the green space that exists in Ward 5 as these institutions convert to residential uses. It’s not just this particular case, it’s the fact that there are no public parks at all in 5E01 and people rely on this private green space to substitute for a public good. 

I hope that regardless of the outcome of this case, we can work together to demand public funds to create parks from at least some of the institutional space that makes up the remaining open land in our community.

The full commission is voting on this project Tuesday night - the schedule will be tight but I look forward to additional discussion then. 

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  • commented 2017-05-15 23:56:40 -0400
    Thanks for the thoughtful leadership!
  • published this page in Blog 2017-05-14 21:37:48 -0400