ANC6B Charges Washington Gas with “Predatory Tactics” on Meter Replacements in Browns Court
by Larry Janezich
Last Tuesday night, ANC6B charged Washington Gas (WGL) with using “predatory tactics” regarding the replacement of gas meters in Browns Court in SE Capitol Hill. The ANC seized upon WGL’s post facto application to install protective “bollards” for meters and lines to protest the high handed manner with which the company deals with residents as well as to remedy their decision to use unsightly pipes – little more than steel fence posts – for the protective devices. The application to install bollards in public space is being processed through the DDOT’s Public Space Committee. The ANC requested DDOT to “require revisions in cooperation with residents and Capitol Hill Historic District guidelines. “
The letter conveying the Commissions opposition states, in part, “WGL representatives threatened to cut off natural gas service – supplying heat during winter – if impacted homeowners would not permit the WGL crews to [enter] their homes. These predatory tactics left homeowners with little opportunity to provide input into the project before work was completed.”
In addition, the letter charged, “…WGL’s work on Browns Court has been fraught with problems including: interior floor damage, exterior house and fence damage … post-construction pipe leaks, unfinished pipe seals and braces where pipe exits the front of house, failure to replace brick planters … and failure properly supervise contractors resulting in poor workmanship and harassment of residents.”
Adding insult to injury, the permit is being processed through DDOT’s Public Space Committee, post facto, after the work has been complete, providing an additional grievance against the company – and DDOT.
Commissioner Diane Hoskins, in whose single member district Browns Court resides, says “The application is for undesirable and unsightly bollards that are in violation of relevant codes and regulations and that should never have been permitted …. Also, there are dozens of other errors presented in the application…. Furthermore, the work for which Washington Gas & Light Co. seeks approval is work that … [was] completed by deliberately bypassing the proper permitting process.”
ANC6B is opposing the permit and urging DDOT to require WGL to work with neighbors to revise the bollards to conform to specifications consistent with the recommendations of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society and the Historic District.
DDOT’s Public Space Committee has a long record of riding roughshod over the city’s regulations requiring ANC opinion to be given great weight. This appears to be yet one more example in a long list of complaints against city agencies working hand in glove with outside companies and casually dismissing the legitimate need for resident input.