A GOOD FIVE YEARS AGO, some residents of the North Dupont Circle area began generating support for the development of a citizen-produced rezoning plan for their whole area. Eventually, an impressive, comprehensive plan was produced and in June 1975 the residents submitted it to the D.C. Zoning Commission.
Essentially, the citizen's plan - supported by the North Dupont Community Organizationa nd the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, as well as the advisory neighborhood commission for the area - sought to preserve the character of their neighborhood while allowing for the stimulus of normal commercial change. It wad designed to protect the small businesses in the area, limit high-rise development, control traffic and parking and, to the extent possible, guard against the demolition of historically interesting buildings.
That was in 1975. Only now has the Zoning Commission agreed to give the plan a public hearing. It will take place - get this "sometime after Dec. 31" to allow the city's municipal planning office time to gather data. What's more, the commissioners have already given the citizens some unsubtle hints as to how they'll decide the case. As noted in a report by staff writer Joe Ritchie in the District Weekly section of this newspaper, the commission members seem unimpressed: Member Walter B. Lewis, among others, said he was "sure" the citizens would fail to be heard.
You'd think that, given the years that have gone by, the hearing could be arranged for no later than, say, September. After all, in this case it is not a matter of the government's having to bear the burden of proof; the citizens have reversed the process and are merely seeking an opinion from the city plannign office so that the zoning commission can proceed.
Moreover, the citizens aren't merely asking for "downzoning," or zoning classifications that would result in an across-the-board reduction in permissible development levels. On certain land, the plan calls for higher zoning categories.
None of this is to say that the citizens' rezoning plan is perfect. It is complex, proposing zoning changes for at last 606 land parcels in a 66-acre area. (The city planning office claims it would affect a far larger area.) But in the same good spirit that led city officials to agree to some downzoning in this neighborhood three years ago - and in the interest of encouraging development in other parts of the city that could benefit - the government planners and zoners should be looking positively at the Dupont plan instead of dragging their heels.