A dentist-turned-inventor has dropped his plans to permanently locate a medical research office in a Northwest Washington apartment building after several residents in the high-rise complained that the use would be inappropriate and potentially hazardous.
Earlier this year, Dr. Robert Schattner, a Bethesda dentist, sought the approval of a D.C. zoning panel to keep his company, Sporicidin International, headquartered in an apartment building at 4000 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
Schattner, who has operated his offices out of the building for several years, has already been charged by the District government with operating the office without an occupancy permit. The charge, a misdemeanor, is scheduled to be heard by a D.C. Superior Court judge on Sept. 25.
Several residents at the high-rise charged that Schattner's plans to continue using the site eroded the residential quality of the 491-unit apartment building. In addition, they claimed Schattner's use of a unit in the building for medical research could pose a danger to the building's residents. Several residents reported unusual odors coming from the Sporicidin offices, and they questioned what types of experiments Schattner conducts at the facility.
In documents submitted with the zoning panel, Schattner said his firm would use the apartment unit as a "foundation for medical research, etc." Schattner did not return several telephone calls for comment.
Michael Hays, a Washington attorney who represents Schattner, was unclear about activities at Schattner's upper Northwest Washington facility, but said, "They weren't experimenting and they weren't manufacturing there."
He said his client was moving out of the building before the end of the month because "it's been an unpleasant and divisive situation." Schattner dropped his bid to locate permanently in the building on Tuesday, just one day before a hearing was scheduled on the matter.
In the 1950s, Schattner invented Chloraseptic, a mouth spray. In 1963, he earned $4 million plus continuing royalties when he sold his product to Norwich Pharmacol Co. In recent years, he developed Sporicidin, a cold sterilizing agent for medical and dental equipment. He is also one of several prominent local businessmen seeking to purchase a major league baseball team to be located in Washington.
But residents at the building, as well as the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, were not eager to have a nonresidential use at the apartment complex.
"The use is inappropriate, has been found to be objectionable to residents and is in no way adjunct or accessory to the apartment house," according to an ANC resolution recently adopted opposing Schattner's request.
Eunice Lipkowitz, a resident of the building who led the fight to force Schattner to move, said the decision by Schattner not to pursue the matter is a victory, albeit a small one, for tenants' rights.
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