ANC6C Approves Historic Preservation Concept for Church’s 5 Townhouses on 6th Street, NE
by Larry Janezich
Wednesday night, a divided ANC6C voted 4 – 2 (Commissioners Wirt and Miller) to support the Historic Preservation Application for five new townhouses containing a total of ten family units planned for the unit block of 6th Street N.E., by the Capitol Hill Baptist Church. (For previous post see here: http://bit.ly/2sdiG5R)
Although several church members were present to endorse the project, a number of nearby residents voiced their concerns or opposition.
Many of these concerns had to do with the impact of the new residences on parking, not only from residents of the townhouses, but also from parishioners attending Sunday services. One resident questioned the commitment of the church to be part of the neighborhood, alleging that his efforts to engage the church had been rebuffed. Another said that she had been surprised and disappointed to find that five townhouses meant ten units, and another complained that her bedroom windows face the project and rooftop decks on two of the units affect her quality of life.
After the meeting, a nearby resident told Capitol Hill Corner, “The church has not been forthcoming and is appearing more and more deceptive. Rather than new townhouses that could contribute to the DC tax base, it seems to be an expansion of the church. [If the church has the] use classified as religious, this will amount to very fancy dorms on prime real estate.” Update: A representative from the church has informed Capitol Hill Corner that if constructed, these homes would be subject to property taxes just as they would be for any other private owner. (The church also owns 8 dwellings in the immediate area around its address at 525 A Street, NE, including four on East Capitol, NE.)
Associate Pastor Jamie Dunlop told the ANC the new housing will replace rental housing which the church already has in the neighborhood for pastor trainees. Renters will be families, some long term, some shorter – for 4 or 5 months. He said that construction will result in the loss of 8 parking spaces on site, and a total of 14 on Sunday. The church is attempting to secure commercial parking for those parishioners who drive, but half of the congregation lives within walking distance of the church.
ANC6C Planning and Zoning Chair Mark Eckenwiler made the motion to support the Historic Preservation Application, noting that there were still a few minor historic preservation issues to be addressed, such as suggested changes to hardscaping, landscaping, and exterior stairs. Regarding parking, he said he heard what people are saying, but that the parking problems are the result of a broken regulatory system, and until significant changes are made, it will continue to be a problem: “The church is not the enemy; this is a Historic Preservation Application, not a zoning application.”
Asked later if there were zoning issues associated with the project, Eckenwiler said “The church asserts that the project is matter-of-right as to zoning. I don’t have specific reasons at this stage to think their claim is incorrect, but it’s impossible to be certain based on the limited information typically submitted for HPRB concept review. Such submissions are far less detailed than applications for building permits, and this project has not yet reached the permitting stage.”
The Historic Preservation Application will come before the Historic Preservation Review Board on June 22.