An emergency order issued by the D.C. Zoning Commission last week is expected to prevent the conversion of six Adams-Morgan residential buildings to hotels and offices.
The order, which is exepcted to be followed by permanent commission action, corrects what was probably a drafting error made when the commission changed the rules for commercial zones last year. Although the purpose of the change was to encourage residential buildings in some commercial zones, the way the regulations were written allowed owners of buildings in these zones to convert existing residential buildings to commercial use.
When Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Ann Hughes Hargrove heard of six buildings in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood whose owners were planning to evict tenants and convert the buildings to commercial uses, she petitioned the Zoning Commission to take emergency action.
According to Hargrove, apartment buildings at 1841 and 1844 Columbia Rd. NW were about to be converted to hotels and four townhouses at Belmont Road and 18th Street were about to be converted to offices.
The commission also took the first step toward creating a new low-rise commercial zone that may eventually be used for Connecticut Avenue from Dupont Circle to Florida Avenue. Dupont Circle community leaders, while supporting the new zone with modifications at last week's public hearing, charged that Commissioner Theordore F. Mariani should not participate in the case because of an alleged conflict of interest.
"In the Dupont Circle rezoning case, Mr. Mariani recused himself he owned property in the area affected. This is really a continuation of that case," said Ann Sellin in the Dupont Circle Citizens Association.
When the Dupont Circle area was rezoned last spring, generally limiting building heights and commercial uses, upper Connecticut Avenue was excluded.
At the time of the rezoning decision, commissioner George White said it would be inappropriate to rezone upper Connecticut Avenue to the category proposed by the citizen's groups since that category envisioned commercial uses only on the first floor with apartments above. He suggested that a new zone be created for the street, allowing full commercial use while reducing the 90-foot building height.
At the public hearing last week, citizens were invited to comment on the creation of a proposed new zone that would allow 65-foot commercial or residential buildings.
Mariani, an architect and engineer, occupies and has na option to buy a building at 1600 20th St. NW facing Connecticut Avenue. The property is now zoned for 90-foot buildings. If the new zone is created, Dupont Circle leaders say they will request the commission to apply it to upper Connecticut Avenue and to include the Mariani property. But Mariani contends that the creation of the new zone has nothing to do with his property and says he intends to participate in the hearings about the new zone.
If and when the issue of whether to apply the proposed new zone to the section of Connecticut Avenue where Mariani's office is located comes up, Mariani said in a telephone interview, "it might be reasonable for me to withdraw from the case."
Sellin said she still believes Mariani should refrain from participating in the consideration of the new zone because "if the text change is rejected, our case for Connecticut Avenue is finished."