Any fast-food chain planning to open a D.C. restaurant near a residential area will have to obtain special approval under a resolution adopted by the Zoning Commmission.
The commission action, taken at its meeting last week, was in response to residents who live near commercial districts and who oppose fast-food restaurants opening in their neighborhoods.
The resolution, which goes into effect at the end of the month, will require Board of Zoning Adjustment approval and a public hearing for fast-food restaurants in districts that are zoned for retail and office use, if any portion of the restaurant lot is within 25 feet of a residentially zoned area, unless the lot is separated from the residential area by a street or alley.
The resolution amends emergency regulations adopted by the commission in July that severely restricted where fast-food restaurants could locate in the District. The commission debated the issue for two years, during which more than 30 such restaurants opened throughout the city.
The resolution, passed by a 4-to-0 vote, "was brought on in part by ANC [Advisory Neighborhood Commission] 3F and some other comments from citizen groups such as the Anacostia Coordinating Council," said Ceicel Tucker, acting head of the zoning panel.
"I'm pleased as punch" with the amendment, said Christine Viezens, secretary-treasurer of ANC 3F, who, since March, has spoken to more than 10 ANCs and several City Council members in support of the amendment.
In April Viezens and other ANC 3F residents submitted a draft amendment to the Zoning Commission. "The actual [commission] decision was kind of anticlimactic because we've been working on this for so many months," she said. ". . . it was very clear there was a groundswell that the people felt it was important" that residential areas near commercial districts need to be protected.
Under current practices, fast-food restaurants are permitted in any commercial district, even those adjoining residential areas, without special approval except for a building permit.
"I suspect that the review procedures that these new regulations require will be of some value in lessening the effects of commercialization to private homes that abut commercial districts," said Jerry A. Moore III, an attorney whose firm represents several national fast-food chains including McDonalds, Popeyes, Wendys, Churches and Hardees.
"The [fast-food] industry still thinks it unfair, however, to single out one industry to punish for some of the unpopular effects that all commercial uses bring," said Moore. "We just hope that this will be the last shot in the war against fast-food restaurants."
Some of the areas affected by the amendment are the east side of Wisconsin Avenue NW between Rodman and Upton streets, the east side of Wisconsin Avenue NW between Warren Street and Windom Place, and the east side of 14th Street NW between Kenyon and Monroe streets NW.
Also affected will be both sides of South Capitol Street SE between Livingston Road and Southern Avenue, Martin Luther King Avenue SE between V and W streets, and the east side of Minnesota Avenue NE near Benning Road.
The amendment will not apply to restaurants for which building permits have already been granted.