Zoning rewrite will get another round of hearings

December 10, 2013

The new zoning code would shape the development of city neighborhoods, including Georgetown, over the coming decades. (The Washington Post)

As the process of rewriting the District’s zoning regulations closes out its fifth year, it is now certain to stretch into a sixth.

The D.C. Zoning Commission announced Monday evening it will hold another set of hearings on the contentious zoning overhaul early next year and will not proceed with deliberations and final votes on the various proposals until March at the soonest.

There will be five additional hearings: one exclusively for advisory neighborhood commissions will be held Jan. 30 at the John A. Wilson Building; four others will be held in February at dates, times and locations to be determined in city neighborhoods. One meeting each will be held in wards 1 and 2, wards 3 and 4, wards 5 and 6, and wards 7 and 8. The commission will also accept written statements until 3 p.m. on March 3.

The new hearings come after a series of hearings already held in November on the nearly thousand pages of proposed new regulations. Those who have already testified before the commission will not be allowed to testify again, Commission Chairman Anthony Hood said Monday.

“We want to make sure we cover as much of the city and get to as many people in the city as possible,” Hood said, adding that he and his colleagues want to “hear from people we haven’t heard from.”

The rewrite was initiated by the District’s planning office in January 2008 with the convening of working groups tasked with examining particular sections of the zoning code. Proposals were further refined by a community task force, and the planning office held a series of community meetings in all eight city wards last December and January before submitting the draft regulations to the Zoning Commission this summer for final approval.

Particular proposals included in the overhaul have been controversial, especially over the allowance of corner stores and “accessory” apartments in some residential neighborhoods and, most of all, over new limitations on the amount of parking required to be built in areas served by public transit.

Bands of activists, D.C. for Reasonable Development and the D.C. Zoning Changes Network, have pushed in recent weeks for more outreach, arguing that the public, particularly residents living east of the Anacostia River, have not had sufficient time to review the final proposals since they were submitted to the commission over the summer.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis | December 10, 2013