At-Large Councilman Kwame Brown has publicly expressed his condemnation of the 5220 Wisconsin Avenue proposal to develop a used car lot into a seven story mixed use, residential buidling on top of the Friendship Heights Metro station. Here is his letter:
March 29, 2007
Chairman Carol J. Mitten
D.C. Zoning Commission
441 4th St., NW--Suite 210 South
Washington, DC 20001
Dear Ms. Mitten:
I am writing in opposition to the Akridge project, Case # 06-31. I ask you to reject the application for the following reasons:
• The project is not consistent with the revised Comprehensive Plan or the Future Land Use Map. The proposed C-2-B with a Planned Unit Development (PUD) does not conform to the prevailing character and adjacent uses of the surrounding community, as regulations require. The density, lot occupancy (100%), and intensity of use go far beyond what would be consistent with the site's low-density commercial/medium density residential designation in the revised Plan.
• The building breaks the buffer zone mandated by the Comprehensive Plan. Rather than stepping down from the Regional
Center, it jumps up to a height and density greater than those of most of the buildings even in the Regional Center and grossly out of scale with adjacent structures in the buffer zone.
• The building would have serious adverse effects on traffic, parking, and the safety and quality of life of nearby residents. Akridge has not addressed the detrimental impacts on neighborhood infrastructure, including schools and emergency services.
• Akridge has refused to work cooperatively with the ANC and the neighboring community to make any significant changes in response to community concerns.
• The project does not have the support of the community. It has been rejected twice by the ANC, it is opposed by more than 500 residents living within a 3-block radius who signed a petition against it, it is opposed by neighborhood organizations such as theTenleytown Neighbors Association and the Alliance for Rational Development, and it is opposed by the many constituents who have written to me asking me to support their neighborhoods and oppose the
While I welcome development at that site, as do the residents, I also support development that is appropriate to the scale and character of the surrounding community. Good transit-oriented development does not occur at the expense of neighborhoods. In the words of the revised Comprehensive Plan (RCW-2.2), "Friendship Heights and Tenleytown are stable, transit-oriented neighborhoods, and their conservation should be ensured during the coming years." Friendship Heights doesn't need more economic stimulus. But I see good transit-oriented development (TOD) as a powerful vehicle for helping underserved neighborhoods near Metro that want and need growth to achieve the economic benefits they have a right to. I believe those areas must be the first focus of our TOD efforts, not neighborhoods that the Comp Plan has acknowledged are already transit oriented.
I am hopeful that your rejection of this application will motivate the Akridge Company to go back to the community, work with them, and return to the Zoning Commission with a project that has ANC and neighborhood support. Developers need to take the community seriously from the outset. They must not get a signal from their government that they may buy a property zoned for a project they do not want to build and simply assume that the zoning will be overturned. Developers must be willing to find compromises with the community so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of positive, sensible development. I believe rejecting this application is the first step in making that happen.
Kwame R. Brown
Under the PUD process (which are the governing rules in the district by which developers can ask for changes to the zoning code under special exception) Akridge has been working with a variety of neighhborhood groups to develop the structure and populate it with neighborhood serving retail in a way more than acceptable to the broader community.
Anyone who thinks it is ok to develop this parcel in a way that encourages transit use, green building certification and economic development for the neighborhood and city should let Kwame Brown know! Development issues such as this became the focal discussion and proxy in both the democratic primary and general election for Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh. Residents supportive of this kind of compact development around metro stations should let their voices be heard once again.
A letter such as this from the Council Chair of the Economic Development Committee makes one wonder.