Zoning Commission Concludes Public Hearings on the Hine Development

Zoning Commission Concludes Public Hearings on the Hine Development – Supporters and Critics Have Their Final Words

by Larry Janezich

Last night, the DC Planning and Zoning Committee held its third and final hearing on whether to change the zoning on the Hine Development.  The session was devoted to groups and individuals in support of the change, and the individuals who are opposed.  Those groups opposing the change presented testimony during the June 22 hearing.

The change, requested to accommodate greater height and density of the project, was supported by a range of civic and business organizations, including CHAMPS, the Capitol Hill Restoration Society, Barracks Row Main Street, DC Preservation League, and the Coalition for Smarter Growth.  Debbie Daniels, owner of Forecast, and restauranteur Xavier Cervera supported the change, as did a handful of residents and other interested parties.  Support for the project was based in terms of the support for businesses and services the project would bring to the community as well as its achieving the broader “new-urbanist” goals of concentrating population density at transportation hubs.

Some two dozen residents registered their opposition to the project on the basis that the requested C2B zoning would be unique and inappropriate in the Capitol Hill Historic District, that the height and mass are inappropriate for the neighborhood, that affordable housing residents were being isolated and treated differently, and that the environmental impact of the project would adversely affect the nearby neighbors.

During the period for rebuttal by the development team at the end of the hearing, the following information was revealed:

  • Architect Amy Weinstein said the current design represents a 2.9% increase in square footage over the original design.
  • Buwa Binitie of Dante Partners said the affordable housing component was “quite typical” for development projects in DC and defended separate amenities for those residents.
  • Joe Sternlieb of Eastbanc said – perhaps for the first time – that the developers might sell the southern part of the project and that the affordable housing component might have separate management.  With respect to an attention-drawing archway and streetscaping on 7th Street, he noted that the ANC had “traded away” developer funding for other community-supported initiatives, including “day care, a playground, and free office space for the ANC.”  The inclusion of the latter appeared gratuitous, since accommodation for the ANC came late in the process.  Sternlieb said that the Memorandum of Agreement between the developer and the ANC had not yet been finalized though he expected it to be shortly.  He expressed confidence that, despite the Eastern Market legislation (with its proposed solution to the downsizing of the flea market) being stalled by opposition from Mayor Gray, “whoever is mayor” after the 2014 election will agree to close 7th Street to accommodate the weekend flea market.
  • 10,200 truck trips over a period of six months will be necessary to demolish and excavate the Hine site.  The current plan is for the trucks to exit the site near 8th and C.
  • A Construction Management Plan has not yet been reached with the nearby neighbors, but an agreement is close.
  • SEB has indemnified all houses within 200 feet to protect them from construction damage.

The Zoning Commission will take up the Hine development again at its September 10 meeting.  It is likely that they will issue a zoning order at that time which will take into consideration the issues raised by the community during the hearings.

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