Developers Richard J. Donohoe and Gerard M. LaVay went before the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment last week to seek approval for construction of a 541-unit condominium townhouse complex on 24 acres of land near Trinity College. The developers purchased the land for $3 million from the college last March.
The dev* elopment site is bounded by Michigan Avenue, North Capitol Street and Irving Street NE.
Wayne Quinn, attorney for the developers, told BZA members that Donohoe and LaVay had originally planned to raise a high-rise apartment complex on the site. They abandoned the idea, he said, after deciding it would not be in character with the neigborhood, which includes Trinity College, the Immaculate Conception Shrine, Children's Hospital and a variety of singlefamily row houses.
Instead, the development, to be called Park Place, will consist of two and three-bedroom single-family homes that will be 13- to 20-feet wide, contemporary in design, with front and backyard space. Some models, called multilevel units, will have one townhouse stacked over the other, said LaVay. Homes will include washers and dryers, air conditioners, refrigerators and stoves. Underground and offstreet parking will accommodate 270 cars.
Earlier this year, LaVay had said the homes would sell in the high 40s or 50s. Prices now are expected to range from $49,000 to $70,000, with moderate condominium fees, he said. The average cost of a unit will be $63,000.
"On today's dollars, that's considered moderate-income housing," said Donohoe.
Overall, the development plans were received enthusiastically by D.C. government and Trinity College officials. Quinn submitted a letter of support from the D.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) and said the city Environmental Services Department had also approved the plans.
Kenneth Hammond, an official with the zoning services division of the Municipal Planning Office (MPO), told the zoning adjustment board that the MPO believed the development would "add to the housing inventory and provide a variety of housing types and costs."
Sister Roseanne Fleming, president of Trinity College, added that the college also supported the development.
"I'm most happy with that I've seen today," said Sister Fleming, referring to architectural drawings the developers had brought to the hearing. "We feel confident it will be compatible with our campus and the neighborhood of which we are proud to be a part."
BZA Chairman Leonard McCants asked Sister Fleming if the college had any legal assurances from the developers that they would proceed with the plan as presented.
Written into the land-sale contract is a clause that gives the college "the right to approve development that goes up on the Michigan Avenue side (of the 24 acres) across from our main administration building," said Sister Fleming.
Other than that, she said the contract does not give the college control over the style of housing built, the density or the selling price of the homes."
Still, she said, "I think we've entered a contract with people in good faith."
Some area residents, such as Bernard Cain, did not share Sister Fleming's faith in the developers.
Cain presented written statements from Advisory Neighborhood Commission members and citizens groups protesting the development. He said many residents felt the neighborhood was already fully developed. These residents believed a 541-unit townhouse development would adversely affect traffic and sanitation patterns in the area.
At one point in the hearing, witnesses for the developers said the D.C. Department of Transportation had estimated that the project would generate nearly 3,000 more automobile trips in the area daily. Another witness estimated 4,000 trips.
The witnesses said DOT had judged that the impact on major intersections in the neighborhood would be near the maximum number of vehicles that could acceptably pass through the neighborhood.
Cain said traffic in the neighborhood is already bad and the project would only make it worse.
Bruce Marshall, an aide to City Council member William Spaulding (D-Ward 5), said numerous Ward 5 residents had contacted Spaulding objecting to the project for similar reasons.
Despite Quinn's claims that neighbors and civic groups in the immediate area had been notified of the plans, Marshall said, "We're not sure all the neighbors in the area have been contacted. Those we contacted seemed to be against it."
MPO official Hammond said his office had invited response from civic groups but had not received any by its Nov. 20 deadline.
Under the guidelines of the present plans, 16 acres of the hilly, wooded site will be turned into open, landscaped space, said Quinn. Streets with such idyllic names as Magnolia Drive and Dogwood Court will snake through the private community, which will have three admittance gates.
A community swimming pool, for Park Place residents only, will be among the recreational facilities. Final plans for the recreational facilities have not been completed. The BZA has requested from DOT on traffic patterns be submitted before it makes a final decision.
The developers have asked the BZA to rule on the project by early December.
Richard LaVay, son of the developer, said the homes will be built in six phases over three or five years. About 107 homes are expected to be built during the first phase, he said.