ANC6B Votes to Oppose Tree House Extension in Public Space Over Archibald Walk
by Larry Janezich
Last night, ANC6B voted to recommend that DDOT deny the public space permit the agency issued which permits a tree house in Archibald Walk to project some two feet into public space over the narrow pedestrian residential alley. See CHC post here: http://bit.ly/1P4gqO0
The vote came after considerable hand wringing by some commissioners. Planning and Zoning Chair Nick Burger said he didn’t see the harm of the projection into public space, “we see bays in public space all time.” None the less, he said, “the regulations are clear that balconies are not permitted to extend into public space. I don’t support the opponents of the treehouse regarding their objections that the tree house is not in keeping with the historical nature of the alley, but regarding the application for a balcony the rules are clear. I will probably abstain. I don’t see a clear path forward.”
Burger questioned the owner as to why DDOT had classified to structure as a balcony, noting that absent the public space issue, the matter would not be before the ANC. The owner said he had relied on DDOT’s judgement.
Commissioner Samolyk expressed sympathy for the applicant saying that he was paying the price for a “screw up by DCRA – these people spent money and relied on DCRA’s judgment that they wanted to build would not need a permit.”
Apparently, DCRA has no provision for issuing a permit for the construction of a tree house, and property owners have a right to build whatever they please as a matter of right.
Commissioner Jim Loots, in whose single member district the tree house lies, said, “It seems to me the applicant has been consistently and inappropriately dismissive of the neighbors’ concerns. The opposition of the neighbors is not retaliatory, not anti-child, and not generational as he stated to me today. The question is whether this particular special public space should be used for this purpose.”
Nearby neighbors submitted the names of 11 nearby residents opposing the tree house and provided extensive documentation backing up their claim that the tree house owner had been negligent in informing neighbors of his proposed construction and cited discrepancies in the owner’s written claims to DDOT, particularly his assertion that he had contacted ANC6B during construction, when he had not. Neighbors claim that permits are supposed to be a matter of public record, available on line, but this permit was not. They filed a Freedom of Information Request to get the permit and accompanying documentation.
Commissioner Brian Flahaven, who will resign his seat on Friday for family reasons, suggested language to amend the Planning and Zoning Committee’s recommendation that the ANC oppose the public space permit to clarify that the ANC was making the recommendation on the basis that DDOT had classified the structure as a balcony and DC regulations prohibit balconies from projecting into public space.
The Commission voted to approve the language by a vote of 8 ayes, 0 nays, and 2 abstentions – Commissioners Krepp and Samolyk.