The old adage says that if you want the job done right, you have to do it yourself. And thats exactly what the Wisconsin Avenue Corridor Committee [WACC] has been trying to do for the past nine years.
In a realm usually left to zoning commissions and politicians, WACC has pursued an active role in planning land use for the far Northwest corner of the District.
"We didn't think we had time to wait," said Carole C. Gidley, who chairs WACCs planning committee. "Development in our area has just been thundering along. We wanted a forum and we couldn't wait for the city to provide it."
When a review of zoning was mandate by the Home Rule Act in 1974. WACC members said they were more than glad to help. The groups is currently in the process of drawing up a new zoning map, based on more than 30 proposals from Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and citizen organizations. Gidley said the final product will be sent to the D.C. Zoning Commission for further evaluation and approval.
WACC Chairman Chuck Clinton likens his group's role in the process to that of a traffic cop. "We don't initiate; we coordinate," he said. "We try to keep the lines of communication open."
The lines of communication were open last week when WACC held a public meeting at St. Mary's Armenian Apostolic Church at 4125 Fessenden St. NW to review a first draft of the new zoning map.
"This map is by no means the final word on the subject," Clinton said at the outset. "We look forward to getting input from all sectors of the community."
Input is what he got as more than 50 residents engaged in a spirited discussion of the areas zoning needs. Clinton described the threat of the changes as "down zoning," meaning lower density housing and less business construction for the far Northwest area. Homeowners generally endorsed the zoning proposals, but businessmen and developers complained that they would not be able to realize the full value of their property if "down zoning" occurred.
The exchanges between residents and businessmen were often heated. When attorney Norman Glasgow asked all the business owners in attendance to rise and be acknowledged by the audience, a resident shouted back, "Now, will all those businessmen who tore down a historical building when they were developing their property remain standing?"
Glasgow, representing several developers, argued that the area has a commitment to grow since Metro expansion is costing the public millions of dollars. "With that kind of development at public expense, it's unrealistic to think the corridor is going to remain a quiet little residential area," he said.
But William Carroll, of Woodley Place, responded, "I don't think we should be run out of our homes by the damn Metro."
While the basic conflict between homeowners and businessmen was not resolved at the meeting. Gidley said she is confident that the two groups can work out their differences. "We all have to compromise," she said. "But I'm sure we can come out with something everyone can live with."
Gidley said many of the proposed zoning changes will be reevaluated as a result of the comments made at last week's meeting. WACC hopes to complete the new zoning map and present it to the D.C. Zoning Commission by the end of the summer, Gidley said.