Perhaps more than anywhere else in the District of Columbia now, the issue of development versus quality of residential life is brought into stark focus along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor.
While commercial growth there clearly has distinct advantages, the city government is well aware of the need to protect established residential areas. The city is faced with the challenge of protecting the quality of the environment yet encouraging economic development.
I believe the city has responded well to this challenge. In 1984, the city approved the comprehensive plan for the national capital, following a series of public hearings. The plan addresses the potentially conflicting areas of economic development and quality of life and describes a rational process of decision-making by the executive and legislative branches of the government. The plan addresses land use, economic development, housing, transportation, public facilities, historic preservation, urban design, downtown development and human services. The policy recommendations are intended to guide development and to protect established residential areas from any harmful effects.
The enactment of the comprehensive plan not only fulfilled the requirements of the Home Rule Charter, but also established a planning framework and process for the first time. No longer can the zoning ordinance be used as a substitute for planning or as a method for resolving land-use issues.
The city's planning process involves preparing plans at three levels -- citywide, ward and small area. At each level, there is extensive community involvement to ensure that local residents and business owners have an opportunity to participate in determining the future of their neighborhoods. The citywide plan is complete. Ward plans are being developed along with several small area action plans, including one for the Wisconsin Avenue corridor.
While some changes to the city's zoning regulations have already occurred, the city will initiate a comprehensive examination of the zoning ordinance following completion of the more specific ward and small area plans. This is a logical and rational planning approach, not unlike planning practices followed in other jurisdictions in the country, including the Maryland and Virginia suburban areas.
I believe the Wisconsin Avenue corridor offers a unique opportunity for the city to show that economic development does not necessarily mean a reduction in the quality of the living environment.