The D.C. Zoning Commission has scheduled a major and lengthy series of hearings next spring to consider revision of Washington's commercial and mixed-use zones.
The hearings, which will begin March 30, will permit several neighborhood citizen associations to finally present for zoning commission approval plans for development in their communities.
But some leaders of at elast one affected neighborhood were dissatisfied with the commission action last week, charging that by the time the hearings are finished and the zoning commission has made a decision on changing the necessary regulations, uncontrolled and large-scale development may have destroyed their community.
Anne Sellin, zoning committee chairman of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, said the association was "greatly disappointed" that the commission did not set specific dates to hear the association's proposed text and map revisions. The commission scheduled text hearings on commercial and mixed zone use, but did not specifically say when it would hear the Dupont Circle proposal. No date has been set for map hearings, although they would come after the text hearings.
Sellin said the commission actually lengthened the hearing process, and Dupont Circle residents said this could mean the matter will drag on into fall.
"Meanwhile, all sorts of demolition and the erosion of our neighborhood is occurring," Sellin complained. "We wanted a moratorium set."
Added Dale Hudelson, a spokesman for a coalition of Dupont Circle groups which is backing the citizens proposals: "We're happy that they finally seem to be listening to us, but they don't seem to be hearing us very well." Hudelson said after the meeting last week that the vote seemed to represent a partial victory and a partial defeat for the community.
In addition to the first hearing March 30, the commission has set aside the first three Mondays in April to hear proposals from the Municipal Planning Office (MPO) an citizens groups for text revisions to nearly all of Washington's commercial zones. Besides Dupont Circle, residents and businessmen in Tenley Circle, Adams-Morgan and Takoma have suggested commercial zone changes.
On May 1 and the following two Mondays of May, the commission will hold hearings on text revisions to mixed-zone use.
After that, the commission will begin hearings on changes to city zoning maps - a process which will plot the text changes to appropriate city areas.
The Dupont Circle community began work on an ambitious zoning proposal for their turn-of-the-century, Victorian neighborhood five years ago.
The plan was submitted to the zoning commission in June 1975. It sought to help small business in the Dupont Circle area, limit high-rise development, control traffic and parking and protect the architectural character and ambience of the area. But the planning office rejected the proposal, contending the plan did not have sufficient supporting data. The community went to work again, gathering its own data.
The proposal finally was declared acceptable and was put on the zoning commission agenda in November, 1976. Last April, the zoning commission decided to hold a hearing on the Dupont Circle case sometime after Dec. 31. One commissioner was quoted as saying during that meeting he was sure the citizens would fail to make their case in a hearing, "but they deserve to be heard."
However, last week's vote means the Dupont Circle proposal will be included in the hearings on several zoning revision proposals.
The Dupont Circle plan would change zoning classifications and divide the present SP, or special use, zone category into two subcategories and would create two new commercial zones which would set height limits and restrict developments.
The Dupont Circle coalition and the MPO will present separate proposals to the zoning commission. Both proposals would create new special purpose zones, but the MPO plan would modify existing commercial zones rather than create new ones. It also would set up a new bonus review prodecures designed to provide incentives for developers to meet city objectives and carry out area plans and studies, according to a memorandum from Ben W.Gilbert, planning office director.
Gilbert said the planning office would press for a prompt hearing on theDupont Circle proposed revision changes.
At its spirited meeting last week, zoning commissioners listened for four hours as representatives of several neighborhoods, business and organizations discussed the needs of their areas.
Some Adams-Morgans residents and businessmen urged the commission to permit commercial uses on the first, second and third floors of many of the area's buildings and to relax parking requirements.
"We want modification of existing zones to allow the use of existing buildings that we haven't been able to use for 10 years," said George Grain.
But the secretary of the Adams-Morgan Advisory Neighborhood Commission told commisioners, "The community hadnot yet reached a consensus on what Adams-Morgan needs . . . We're not sure whether commercial development needs to be encouraged or controlled or both."
A speaker who identified himself as a representative of investors in several northwest neighborhoods as well as an organizations, property owners and citizens, urged the commission to rezone "comprehensively, rather than on a piecemeal basis."
The man said some of the proposals represented "justifying the whims of one particular neighborhood over the interests of the city.