ANC6B Is Set to Oppose Ebenezer Church‘s Curb Cut & Butt Heads with HPRB
by Larry Janezich
Last Tuesday night, a handful of ANC6B’s Planning and Zoning Committee members voted to oppose a curb cut in the Historic District on Fifth Street, SE, which would permit access to a proposed 16 car parking lot for Ebenezer Church. That recommendation now goes to the full ANC. The motion to oppose was made on the basis of not having enough information about the consequences of the curb cut and a desire to preserve interior green space of a block in the Historic District, and included a provision to place the measure on ANC6B’s “consent calendar” at the full meeting. This means that the issue is likely to be approved en bloc along with several non-controversial measures without further debate or discussion. Any commissioner, however, can take the measure off the consent calendar for further consideration.
The vote on the motion in Committee was 4 – 0 – 1 against the curb cut with committee chair Nick Burger abstaining.
Commissioners Kiersten Oldenburg said she was “not crazy about the motion,” but explained that she consistently opposes curb cuts in the Historic District.
Commissioner Chandler Jayaraman – who made the motion – said his objection was based on not having enough information about the uses for which the parking lot would be used as well as the desire to protect green space in the interior of a Historic block in accordance with previous precedents supported by the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB).
Two additional nay votes were provided by resident members of the committee.
About a half a dozen nearby neighbors expressed concerns about the project, those objections based on the lack of communication and transparency by the developer, uncertainty about the possible future commercial development of the church, and the perception that the parking lot would have a negative effect on traffic in the neighborhood. Some neighbors most directly affected, objected to having a parking lot on the other side of their back fences. A smaller number of neighbors supported the parking lot and endorsed the developer’s efforts to alleviate the shortage of parking in the neighborhood.
Last month the HPRB agreed with ANC6B and opposed the construction of two mechanical parking structures behind the church, but left the door open for a parking space for multiple cars.
The developer took advantage of the opening to alter the plan, removed the parking structures and – with the apparent sanction of the Historic Preservation Office – brought the altered proposal back before the HPRB without referring it to ANC6B for further consideration. HPRB subsequently approved the parking lot plan and the necessary curb cut by a vote of 6 – 0 – 1.
The developer told ANC that there was no intent to short-circuit the process in by-passing the ANC, since an application for a curb cut to the Department of Transportation would automatically come back before the ANC for consideration. In fact, Tuesday night’s Committee consideration of the curb cut application was the first step in that process.
After what is likely to be consent calendar approval of the ANC’s opposition to the curb cut at the March meeting of ANC6B, the matter will go to the Department of Transportation Public Space Committee for a public hearing. Nearby resident Chuck Burger told the ANC Committee on Tuesday night that he had led a small delegation of neighbors to present their objections to the parking lot directly to the Public Space Committee.
It’s hard to predict what the Public Space Committee will do – it will have to weigh a strong endorsement of the curb cut by HPRB against the opposition of the ANC. In the past DDOT has tended to give ANCs short shrift.
ANC6B has scheduled a discussion regarding its concern about the status of the city’s requirement that ANC opinions be given “great weight” by city agencies at their next meeting on Tuesday, March 13, after the vote on the curb cut.