Wednesday, February 18, 2010
Heritage Foundation Minutes
Present: Commissioners Brown, Dixon, Hamilton, Phelps, Richardson, Silver, Velasco, and Wirt
Absent: Commissioner Docter
The meeting opened at 7:05 pm
The agenda was approved, as presented, without objection.
Motion: Ms. Wirt moved/Ms. Phelps seconded a motion to approve the January minutes, with the proviso that any changes can be made within a week. They were approved without objection.
- Treasurer’s Report
Mr. Richardson submitted the January Treasurers Report. There was an opening balance of $98,460.98. There was an interest payment of $0.83. There were payments of $216 to Capitol Community News for a Hill Rag ad (Check #1164) and $240 (Check #1165) to Roberta Weiner for transcription of minutes, for transcription of minutes for the ANC and Transportation Committee meetings, leaving a balance of $98,005.8. Motion: Ms. Wirt moved/Mr. Ms. Phelps seconded a motion to accept the Treasurer’s Report. The motion passed without objection.
Motion: Mr. Dixon moved/Mr. Richardson seconded a motion to approve the expenditure of $135 for transcription of the December minutes and $100 for transcription of the Transportation and Public Space Committee minutes. The motion passed without objection.
Motion: Mr. Dixon moved/Ms. Phelps seconded a motion to approve the ANC 6C Quarterly Report for the 1st Quarter of FY 10. The motion passed without objection.
Motion: Mr. Dixon moved/Ms. Phelps seconded a motion to approve an award to Mike Cortese for outstanding community service, presented to instill in others the desire to contribute similarly to community improvement. The motion passed without objection, contingent on approval by the DC Auditor.
Mr. Richardson asked for approval to purchase a laptop computer to maintain the documentation of the ANC’s Treasurers Reports. He said he can no longer use his computer at work, and his home computer is inadequate. Motion: Mr. Dixon moved/Mr. Hamilton seconded a motion to approve the purchase of a laptop, with a cap of $1000 on the expense. The motion passed without objection.
Change of Banking Institution
Mr. Velasco asked that the item be moved to the March meeting.
- Community Announcements
Walk for Lupus – April 17thKassandra Kearse, representing the Lupus Foundation, presented information of the Walk for Lupus to be held on April 17th., Motion: Ms. Wirt moved/Ms. Phelps seconded a motion to write of letter of support to the Mayor’s Emergency Management Task Force for the Walk for Lupus on April 17th, contingent on checking with Mr. Docter. The motion passed without objection.Multiple Sclerosis Walk – April 17thNancy Wlodardski, representing the National Multiple Sclerosis Society., presented information about their annual walk. There are no road closures. Mr. Velasco said that organizations shouldn’t have to come to the ANC if there is nothing that interferes with the roads in ANC 6D. Mr. Dixon asked how the community can be involved, and was told that anyone who wants to can check in at the Canadian Embassy. Motion: Ms. Wirt moved/Ms. Phelps seconded a motion to send a letter of support to the Emergency Management Task Force for the Multiple Sclerosis Walk on April 17th.St. Patrick’s Day 8 K Race – March 14th A representative of the Capitol Running Company provided information on the 22nd Annual 8K St. Patrick’s Day Race to benefit the Special Olympics and Back on My Feet, a program to help the homeless. The route goes down Pennsylvania Avenue. Motion: Ms. Wirt moved/Mr. Richardson seconded a motion to send a letter of support to the Emergency Management Task Force in support of the St. Patrick’s Day 8K Race on March 14th, contingent on an okay from Mr. Docter. Mr. Velasco said that if someone has come to the meeting it should be approved. He said it’s not the applicant’s fault if the commissioner hasn’t responded. The motion passed without objection.Proposed Google NetworkBill Sisolak announced that Google intends to build a fiber optic network, and Councilmember Cheh is promoting the use of the District for a pilot program for the network. She is seeking the support of organizations and individuals to let Google know that the District would be an ideal location for the pilot. She would like letters of support to be sent to google.com/appserve/fiberoptic
- Old Business
A discussion of the ANC’s grant procedures has been postponed until a special meeting at a location to be determined by Ms. Brown.
- New Business
There are no reports from the Youth and Education and the Alcoholic Beverage Committees.
Transportation and Public Space Committee
Joe McCann, co-chair of the Committee gave the following report:
Carmine’s – 43\25 7th Street NW
This is a request for support of a Public Space application for a sidewalk café with a wrought iron fence, 50’ long, and 8’3” deep outside a new restaurant at 425 7th Street NW, scheduled to open in June. It will be an establishment with a family environment and no music outdoors. It will have canopies to contain the sound. The owner, who was present at the committee meeting, said he is also planning to cover two tree boxes that abut his property. The request is in keeping with an already signed voluntary agreement. Paul Milstein, of Douglas Development, the property owner, was present representing the restaurant’s owner. Motion: Ms. Phelps moved/Mr. Hamilton seconded a motion to accept the Committee’s recommendation to support a Public Space application for an outdoor café at Carmines, 245 7th Street NW. The motion passed without objection.
Ms. Phelps presented the background on an issue that has just come before the City Council:
Billboards: DCRA’s own website explains that the first billboards appeared in the District in early 1931. There was an almost immediate outcry by residents concerned that billboards were a blight on the city’s aesthetics. By the end of 1931, the District’s government had banned the construction of any new billboards in the city. The only billboards that could remain were those contained on the “Authorized List of Billboards, Three-sheet Poster Boards, and Wall Signs,” dated November 30, 1931*, which appears to have been updated once a decade, with the last update being in 1971.
Those billboards are authorized to remain in place, so long as they aren’t located on lots within 200 feet of a residential district, as defined by Zoning Regulations. No changes in size or location are allowed for authorized billboards. If a billboard were to be demolished, it could not be rebuilt or relocated to another site. DCRA estimates there may be as few as six authorized billboards still in place.
Special Signs: Special Sign: A sign that is erected, hung, placed, posted, painted, displayed or maintained on an outdoor or exterior wall or surface of a building pursuant to a Special Sign Permit issued by the Director of the Department. They are not self-standing, except for 12 that have special approvals predating 2004.
The District of Columbia imposed a permanent moratorium upon the issuance of any permits for the erection or construction of a “Special Sign.” Only 32 Special Signs are legally allowed to exist in the District. A Special Sign is not a billboard – at least in legal terms (see below for information on billboards). These legal Special Signs are similar to liquor licenses in that they can be bought and sold and can be moved from location to location within limited boundaries as defined the Act below.
The legal size limit on old billboards is 300 square feet; the average size of the Special Signs, is now almost 1500 square feet each, with sizes ranging up to 6,000 square feet.
The Issue Today
Clear Channel owns several decades-old billboards in the city (most have been around since the early 1930s). Late last year, DCRA ordered them to remove four billboards at 4th and P Streets, NW and one billboard at 3rd and K Streets, NE because they believed the billboards violated a provision of the Construction Codes (12A DCMR Section 3107) prohibiting billboards from residential areas. Clear Channel sought and received a temporary restraining order and was seeking an injunction, based on what the court viewed as some ambiguity in those provisions of the Codes. At the same time, DCRA issued proposed regulations requiring the removal of any such billboards, with a very aggressive amortization schedule that would be the company’s sole method for compensation.
Apparently, rather than continue with the injunction litigation, DCRA entered into a settlement agreement with the company. The agreement required Clear Channel to remove all five billboards by January 31 and required DCRA to propose regulations that would authorize DCRA to issue three new Special Signs permits as compensation for their removal of the five billboards. That approval resolution was submitted to Council in late December and they are voting on it in early March. Councilmember Bowser held a hearing on it today.
The proposed regulations do not remove the cap on Special Signs, but would increase it so that authorized billboards (of which there are very few – maybe six or so) could be removed in exchange for Special Signs permits. It’s not necessarily a one-for-one deal; with the Clear Channel settlement agreement, it was a 5-for-3 deal.
So this doesn’t mean it would be a 1-1 switch where companies who give up authorized billboards get one special sign for each billboard. But because the regulations do not limit the number of special signs that may be bartered in exchange, it could very well be 1-1. Additionally, when old billboards go away currently, they’re gone forever. Special Signs, however, can be moved. So once a Special Signis granted, the District is stuck with it forever.
Accordingly, the rulemaking seems to fly in the face of the efforts of residents, ANCs – and even DCRA – to reduce the visual blight billboards produce.
It’s important to note that DCRA’s obligation under the settlement was to propose new regulations, not that Council approves them.
According to one Council staffer:
You might ask why Clear Channel would remove these billboards without first having the city’s promise in hand, and it apparently has to do with the somewhat dense law of regulatory takings – the billboards are so old that the city at this point likely has the right to have them removed without paying any compensation or otherwise accommodating the company, so Clear Channel has taken the preemptive step of removing them, perhaps in the hope that they will earn some goodwill with the city for being cooperative. In any event, even if the rulemaking does go through, there is only a chance that the company would be able to place up to three new “special signs,” pending regulatory approval from the government. However, if the rulemaking does not pass, the company has no recourse and is stuck with no billboards whatsoever.
I propose that we oppose this resolution and ask Council to instead “disapprove” the rulemaking.
Monte Edwards said that he had attended a hearing that afternoon at which 16 parties had recommended that the settlement not be approved, and that Clear Channel recommended that it be approved. DCRA director Linda Argo said that DCRA had done their job and made their recommendation and had no further comment. The Attorney General’s office said that if the Council disapproved, they would have to go back to the December 2nd regulations as a starting point.
Motion: Ms. Wirt moved/Mr. Silver seconded a motion to send the City Council the following letter, proposed by Ms. Phelps:
ANC 6C opposes the “Billboard Blight Removal Approval Resolution of 2009.”
The legal size limit on old billboards is 300 square feet; the average size of the Special Signs, according figures, is now almost 1500 square feet each, with sizes ranging up to 6,000 square feet. Trading old size-limited conventional billboards for enormous Special Signs has the potential to produce substantially more billboard blight in the District – something Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, residents, and the District Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs have been vigorously working to reduce.
The Commission recognizes that these proposed regulations are the result of a negotiation between DCRA and Clear Channel, but that negotiation does not bind Council. The five old Clear Channel billboards are gone, and both Clear Channel and the District have fully performed their obligations under the settlement, leaving the Council free to act in the best interest of the District. ANC 6C urges the Council to disapprove the resolution. Furthermore, the Commission asks the Council to ask DCRA to instead reinstate its proposed rulemaking on billboard and Special Sign regulation introduced Dec. 2, 2009.
The motion passed 7-0-1, with Mr. Velasco not voting.
This should be emailed or faxed to Ms. Davida Crocket at firstname.lastname@example.org (I don’t know the fax, but her phone is 741-0898) and cc’d to Tommy Wells. You can ask her if a copy should be sent to the Secretary too, because I don’t know.
Planning, Zoning and Environment Committee
Committee chair Rob Amos reported the following:
Gallaudet University – Dennison House
This is a request for support for a Zoning Commission request for a special exception to amend an approved campus plan to convert Dennison House, a historic structure currently being used for administrative purposes, to residential purposes for a special program. The building was originally a residence and renovations will be primarily interior. Motion: Ms. Phelps moved/Mr. Velasco seconded a motion to accept the Committee’s recommendation to support the special exception requested for the conversion of Dennison House at Gallaudet University from administrative to residential purposes. The motion passed without objection.
480 New York Avenue NW
This is a request for a two-year delay on the PUD for the development of the site at 480 New York Avenue NW. Jeffery Utz of Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw and Pittman, attorneys for the developer, presented their rationale for the delay, primarily because of the economy and the expense of developing what will be a difficult and costly site.
Bobbi Krengel, a member of the Committee, expressed her concern that the issue had not come before the committee. It was explained that the application arrived too late for that to happen, and the hearing was imminent. Mr. Velasco said that he would like to see a facilities plan to take care of the sidewalks and steps to make certain no one can break in to the site. Mr. Dixon added that he walked there last week and no-one had shoveled the snow. Mr. Velasco said that they were asking the ANC to put the neighborhood on hold so that the developer could maximize its profits. There may be people, he said, who can develop it in a less grand manner and not delay. Ms. Phelps said that things were different two years ago, and they took time to get things right. She said there w\should be some provision in the zoning regulations that allows for public use of vacant sites, some way to make it available if it is not being used. She said she had called all the developers in her SMD with large vacant properties and they had all shoveled their sidewalks. Motion: Mr. Dixon moved/Mr. Silver seconded a motion to approve the delay of the PUD for 480 New York Avenue NW contingent on receiving a maintenance plan for the property from the developer and a commitment to explore possible public uses of t he property until it is developed. The motion passed without objection.
Union Station Air Rights
Mr. Amos reported that there had been a Committee meeting on the Union Station Air Rights Test and Map Amendments project,, which would create a new stand-alone zone called Union Station North (USN) which would consist of bulk and design provisions, including height, density, parking and street frontage requirements, as well as provisions necessary for the unique conditions associated with developing 14 acres over an active rail yard. USN would also establish a Zoning Commission design review and approval process similar to that used in the Capitol Gateway Overlay with a set of review criteria to evaluate development applications. The proposed zone would only be applicable from the elevation of the air rights lots and above. Most of the area of the air-rights lots begins at an elevation of 80 feet above sea level and a smaller percentage begins at 70 feet above sea level.
The meeting, Mr. Amos reported, was attended by Matt Jescik and Jennifer Steingasser of the Office of Planning, and David Tuchmann of Akridge Realty. (A report of the meeting is attached).
A postponement a scheduled March 15th hearing was requested, as many questions remain unresolved particularly the height of buildings, and the fact that the height was being measured from the H Street Bridge, which is prohibited by the Comprehensive Plan and previous Zoning Commission rulings. The postponement has been granted, and according to MS. Wirt, may be delayed as long as May.
Ms. Phelps said that she keeps hearing that there needs to be a PUD and a design review, and a design review is not part of PUD requirements. The ANC needs to ask whether r\there are specific things that are included in a design review, and what does it mean. She said it is possible the ANC could get everything it needs from a PUD process, including residential requirements that include inclusionary zoning.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.