D.C. Mayor Marion Barry stiffened his resistance yesterday to a State Department proposal to strip the city of control over chancery locations, telling a Senate hearing that no need has been shown for such a move.
Barry told Sen. Charles Percy (R-Ill.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that he opposes further efforts to reach a compromise with the State Department that would transfer control of chancery locations to some unspecified kind of new board with both District and federal representatives. The mayor said such a move would erode the city's home rule powers.
At House hearings last spring into the same issue, Barry and State Department officials agreed to discuss prospects for reaching a compromise. They were unable to agree, and Barry said yesterday that there is no evidence the city's normal zoning procedures should be changed. City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon, testifying separately, agreed with Barry.
As they had at the House hearings, State Department officials testified that, in their opinion, city zoning officials take too long to decide on chancery applications and do ot adequately consider national interests when they deny them.
In legislation pending in the House and being considered by the Senate committee, the department has prooposed that the Naitonal Capital Planning Commission -- a federal panel with D.C. government representatives -- be given powier to override city zoning regulations and approve chancery locations. The commission itself in a vote two months ago said it saw no need to change the current system.
Percy, describing himself as a strong supporter of home rule, said it seems necessary for Congress to act to resolve the issue despite Barry's plea to leave things as they are. Percy said he would convene a committee meeting to decide a course of action.
The dispute is rooted chiefly in opposition by residents near Embassy Row to block a further concentration in their neighborhood of chanceries, as foreign embassy offices are called. The area, along and adjacent to Massachusetts Avenue west of Dupont Circle, is one of Washington's most fashionable neighborhoods, with many turn-of-the-century mansions. Residents contend chanceries cause unbearable traffic and parking problems.
The issue already has sparked the only direct legislative challenge by Congress to the home rule powers that it granted to the city in 1975. In late 1979, lawmakers vetoed a bill passed by the D.C. City Council that would have outlawed all new chanceries in low- and medium-density residential areas -- the very areas where the State Department says they are desirable.
In testimony yesterday, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas M. Tracy said he did not know of any foreign nation that requires the United States to deal with municipal rather than national authorities in locating U.S. embassy facilities overseas.