ANC 4B Blows Through Light February Agenda

The evening after a powerful windstorm swept through the Washington area, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B breezed through a lightweight agenda in its meeting at the Fourth District Police Headquarters.  Only a few items seemed like they would be of interest to folks who missed this one.

Solar Panels for All Program

The city’s Department of Energy and Environment has launched the SolarForAll program to bring the benefits of solar to 100,000 low- and moderate-income homes.  Two of the grantee organizations who will install solar panels on single-family homes were on hand to explain their programs.

GRID Alternatives and Solar United Neighbors both offer a program where residents below certain income thresholds can receive these solar panels at no cost to them and receive at least a 50% credit for all electricity produced.

Visit https://doee.dc.gov/solarforall to learn more about program and to see if you qualify.

Historic Preservation Application for Aspen Street NW Home

The bulk of the meeting was taken up by an application for a neighbor on Aspen Street NW to add a second floor to his bungalow style home.  The challenge, of course, is that the home lies within the Takoma Historic District.  The Commission heard a lengthy presentation from the project’s architect. Then it heard an even longer rebuttal from neighbor David Hamilton, who explained various reasons why the proposal would not be in line with purpose of the historic district.

Mr. Hamilton is a retired senior architect for the National Capital Planning Commission, so his comments were welcomed by most in the audience to help us understand the issue better. As readers of this blog may know, I am no fan of D.C.’s historic preservation law (I think there are entirely too many historic districts in the city and the rules are being abused by those who oppose residential development).  However, Mr. Hamilton’s comments were very illuminating.

He stated, ” (This house) is not an individualistic structure on the historic preservation list, but it is a contributing element. I think we need to think about what contributing elements are.  Those are the collection of elements that help visually define what the neighborhood looks like. So, therefore, they all have to have a certain look…rhythm…style to them. And the minute you start eroding those contributing elements, what you are actually doing is diminishing the visual characteristics of what designated the district as historic in the first place.”

The minute you start eroding those contributing elements, what you are actually doing is diminishing the visual characteristics of what designated the district as historic in the first place. – David Hamilton

That was a compelling argument.  At the same time, it’s tough to ask a modern family to live in a small house designed with a 1920s lifestyle in mind. The owner, the architect and the ANC commissioners will have a chance to ponder this question again in the coming months. The Commission did not vote on this measure last night.

Coloma River Development

The developers of a set of parcels located at 71 Kennedy Street NW returned to ANC with a revised plan for a 44 unit apartment building. The ground floor will contain 4,000 sf of retail space, including a possible small organic grocer, restaurant, gym space and one other retail use. Originally, they requested parking relief for the building.  When neighbors balked at that, they have now changed plans and added 22 underground parking spaces.

The current proposal is seeking rear yard and courtyard relief.  Current zoning requires 15 feet for a rear yard on the northern edge of the lot and space for a courtyard.  The applicant is seeking a variance because it believes the current designed courtyard (not pictured) meets the courtyard requirement.  In addition, the rear yard space abuts the windowless wall of an existing apartment building. The new building would attach directly to its neighbor. The additional space is required to make project viable.

With the request to reduce the number of parking spaces off the table, the immediate neighbors appear to be in support of this project.   Neighbor and publisher of DCCompass.com Garrett Moore stated, “We welcome this kind of development to Kennedy Street to bring the quality of life up.”

The ANC passed its resolution to support the updated project, which will move on to the Board of Zoning Adjustment later this week.

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