At the request of District residents and officials, the D.C. Zoning Commission has canceled a public hearing on proposed zoning changes for group homes to allow time to gather more information on the issue.
The hearing, which had been set for today, was to have focused on proposed changes to allow the establishment of group homes in any neighborhood in the city.
As early as last month, community groups from every part of the city -- including Capitol Hill, Foxhall Village, Fort Stanton and Kalorama -- had written the zoning commission asking it to cancel the hearing so the proposals could be rewritten.
A few citizens also suggested that a 120-day emergency zoning order, issued by the zoning commission Dec. 14, be extended. The order prohibits the establishment of large group homes in the city until mid-April.
Steven Sher, executive secretary of the zoning secretariat, said similar requests came from the D.C. Office of Planning and Development (OPD).
Last Thursday, Sher said, the zoning commission asked the OPD staff to rewrite the zoning changes for presentation to the commission April 12. If approved by the commission, the revisions will be distributed to the public in preparation for a new hearing.
Carlyn Carter, deputy director of OPD, said a task force of District residents and officials will spend the next few months collecting more detailed information on group home development in the city.
"We're still reviewing (the proposed changes) and trying to formulate a position," Carter said. "We're attempting to get as much data as possible."
If the revisions are approved, Carter said, the public will have 45 days to comment on the changes. The public hearing then should be held in June, she said, with the zoning commission expected to reach a final decision in July.
In requesting the hearing delay, an overall concern of city officials and residents was a lack of information about existing group homes. To date, city officials have been unable to determine the number of private and public group homes in the city, their locations or whom they serve.
Estimates by some experts have suggested there are more than 400 private and city-operated group homes for the elderly and mentally disabled and more than 150 city-run or city-supported group homes for juveniles, alcoholics and ex-offenders.
Without sufficient information, residents complained, they are unable to determine how the proposed zoning changes would affect their neighborhoods.
"There is still not adequate data and analyses... to explain or justify these government-sponsored proposals," the Kalorama Citizens Association wrote in a recent letter to the zoning commission.