State Department and District of Columbia officials are negotiating in an attempt to reach a compromise solution that could avert a congressional confrontation over the location of foreign chanceries in Washington, the House District Committee was told yesterday.
Under a proposal being considered, the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) would be required to pay greater attention to the so-called "federal interest" in finding sites for chanceries, as foreign embassy offices are known. And if the BZA were to deny a foreign government's application for a chancery location, the denial could be appealed to a seven-member panel that would include the five members of the D.C. Zoning Commission plus two federal government representatives.
Because the negotiations hold a promise of reaching a solution without triggering a congressional controversy, District Committee Chairman Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.) said at yesterday's meeting, his committee deferred action on proposed legislation dealing with chancery locations.
At the State Department's request, the House Foreign Affairs Committee recently approved a bill that would strip the District's two zoning panels of jurisdiction over chancery locations and transfer it to the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), a federal body.
The shift is bitterly opposed by residents of the Embassy Row area near Dupont Circle, who view it as a way of forcing more diplomatic missions into an area they consider overburdened by chancery traffic and parking. Dellums, responding to complaints from city officials, had drafted his own rival version of the measure that would have kept control of chancery zoning in the hands of the District zoning bodies while letting NCPC consider appeals whenever chancery applications were denied.
At a District Committee hearing last week, however, Dellums urged State Department witnesses to underetake the negotiations with city officials that got under way on Monday. The principal city negotiator is James O. Gibson, assistant city administrator for planning and development.
If an agreement is reached, Dellums said it probably would be incorporated in an amendment to the Foreign Affairs Committee's bill and sent to the House floor late this month or after the July 4 congressional recess.
On another matter yesterday, the District Committee approved a resolution that would put a limit of $145 million for each of the next three years on D.C. governement borrowing from the U.S. Treasury to finance its construction programs. The limit represents the District Committee's share of spending cutbacks required by the House budget resolution, according to Rep. Stewart B. McKinney (R-Conn.).