A Capitol Hill Advisory Neighborhood Commission has voted to oppose House Minority Leader Robert Michel (R-Ill.) in his bid for a zoning variance to build a two-car garage behind his town house, and Michel is hopping mad.
"I might just put myself on the House District Committee . . . . I'm damned mad," Michel said after learning of the ANC's opposition.
He was referring to the House committee that oversees the District of Columbia and considers legislation relating to the city government's authority.
"It's absolutely ridiculous that they won't support the request ," Michel said. "They're just piqued at my being a public official."
In a 7-to-3 vote, the ANC decided not to support Michel's application to the Board of Zoning Adjustment to build a two-car brick garage on the alley behind the Eighth Street SE town house he and his wife have owned since 1972. City law requires ANCs to make recommendations to the zoning board on such matters.
Prior to the vote, Flossie Lee, the ANC commissioner who represents Michel's neighborhood, told other commissioners, "Some of the commissioners have been on the phone discussing Michel's lack of support for the District . . . . He did not support the D.C. Voting Rights Amendment . . . . He is not for anything for the District of Columbia." Illinois did not ratify the voting rights amendment.
Commissioner Harriett Washington said she talked to most of the other commissioners several days before the vote and suggested adding to the resolution on Michel's garage request a statement of protest from the ANC concerning what she considered Michel's lack of support for the District.
"Can you tell me what that possibly has to do with my wanting to build a garage for my own safety?" Michel said. "If we did that on the Hill the press would crucify us."
Michel did not attend a Dec. 23 meeting at which the ANC's zoning committee voted to support his garage plan. He did not attend the Jan. 7 meeting at which the full ANC voted to oppose the variance. He was in Illinois at the time.
"I feel very strongly that he should have shown up at the ANC meetings," said Commissioner Karen Walker, who did not oppose Michel's request.
One commissioner argued that according to zoning regulations Michel "could build a garage for one car, but he wants one large enough for his two big cars." Michel and his wife need a zoning variance to build a garage longer than 14 feet. The couple wants to build a 15-foot, two-car garage for their two Cadillacs.
Michel said he needs the garage for reasons of safety. Six years ago he was mugged after parking his car behind his house, he said. "I was in the hospital for four days. There have been no less than four fires set in that alley by hoodlums . . . . Our brand new car was recently vandalized."
"The other problem is high school kids who, I hate to say it, have urinated and defecated back there," Michel added. " . . . I'd call it a health hazard."
The Board of Zoning Adjustment will hold a hearing on the applica- Wednesday at the District Building.
Some commissioners were upset that Michel used his minority leader stationery in writing the ANC to ask for support.
"Does he want us to support him because of who he is?" asked Commissioner Evelyn Washington.
Officially the ANC refused to support the minority leader's request because "he exceeded the lot area requirement, he did not show practical difficulty . . . . his arguments concerning safety, loitering and crime were not grounds for the variance," and because neither Michel nor a representative attended the two ANC meetings, according to Donald Dinan, the ANC chairman.
"We said it's okay to build a normal size garage," Dinan said. "He just wants to build a big garage." Dinan abstained from the vote because he is treasurer of Ward 6 Democrats.
"I know for a fact that I'm the only person who actually sweeps the street gutter once a week on that block," Michel said. "I know that's going to make some people mad, but I don't suppose they ANC took into account that I'm a good neighbor . . . . It's disg