The owners of the Fourways Restaurant near Dupont Circle this week asked the D.C. Zoning Commission to reconsider its refusal to grant a zoning change to allow the restaurant's owners to build a seven-story condominium building on their property and possibly change the use of the historic mansion that houses the restaurant.

The zoning commission last week voted 4 to 0, with one member abstaining, to deny the owners' request that the property be rezoned from residential use to commercial.

Walter Sommer, an international hotel and restaurant developer and general partner of Fourways of Washington Ltd., which owns the property, said he needs the rezoning to help the company out of financial problems incurred while renovating the mansion. Sommer bought the house -- a historic landmark -- for $2 million in 1981 and has spent $3 million on renovations.

According to Sommer, he cannot raise the money to build the condominium unless the entire parcel on the northeast corner of 20th and R streets NW, including the mansion and the parking lot behind it that would be the site of the condo, is rezoned to commercial. The current residential zoning allows construction of a condominium.

"With the historic landmark designation on the mansion and the {current} nonconforming-use permit that allows me to run the restaurant, it would be impossible to refinance the property," Sommer said. "I must have the property rezoned to commercial to make it a viable investment."

In rejecting Sommer's rezoning request last week, zoning commission members cited concern over commercial intrusion into an all-residential block and the fact that rezoning the property would allow more intense commercial use of the mansion that houses the restaurant, as well as the possibility that the condominium could be run as a hotel.

Dupont Circle residents and activists who had rallied to fight the proposal hailed the zoning commission's action, saying that the decision would help "hold the line" against commercial encroachment and erosion of the residential quality of the Dupont Circle neighborhood.

"We're happy and excited," said Doreen Moses, a member of the Citizens Coalition Against Commercial Encroachment of Dupont Circle, on the day of the zoning commission decision. Her group, along with the Dupont Circle Citizen Association, the Residential Action Coalition and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B, opposed the rezoning proposal, saying that the condominium would tower over the four-story historic mansion and create parking and traffic problems.

To allay citizens' fears about commercial development on the parking lot, Fourways offered to enter into a private covenant with the community groups that would limit use of any building there to residential use for 30 years.

In the covenant, however, Fourways reserved the right to use the building as a hotel rather than as condo apartments. Whayne S. Quin, Fourways' attorney, said the clause was necessary to protect the rights of individual condominium investors to sublease their units.

In a new covenant filed this week along with his request that the zoning commission reopen the case, Sommer has now proposed eliminating that clause, which several commission members said they disliked.

"The zoning commission was under the impression that we were going to build a hotel, but that's just not true," Sommer said. "We've never had in mind to build a hotel. There are already too many hotel rooms in this city."

Vernon Palmer, staff coordinator for ANC 2B, said that the revised covenant "doesn't change or protect anything," and that he would urge the zoning commission to refuse Fourways' request to reopen the case.

"We are still adamantly against this proposal and this latest tactic is not going to change our position," Palmer said. "The zoning commission voted on this last week and they should not reopen the case. The covenant was not the only thing they opposed and Fourways has not addressed those other issues. This is a last-ditch effort as far as we can see."

Cecil Tucker, secretary to the zoning commission, said that the commission would take up the issue of whether to reopen the case at its next regularly scheduled meeting July 13.

Sommer said he has been "shocked and disappointed" by the opposition in the neighborhood and the zoning commission's rejection of his proposal.

"My feeling now is I should have the support of our friends and neighbors because they should be proud of what we have here," Sommer said. "So many beautiful buildings have been butchered instead of restored and I didn't do that."

Palmer said that the people of Dupont Circle who have opposed his rezoning "appreciate everything he has done to restore the mansion" but that supporting a rezoning that would allow commercial intrusion into a residential block would "endanger" their "entire way of life" in the neighborhood.