From the Forum – School Field Paved for Church Parking without Permits


School Field Paved for Church Parking without Permits:

“I am writing regarding a neighborhood issue for Truxton Circle. In short, there is lot that used to be a multi-acre field at the corner of 1st and P St NW that was paved over practically in the middle of the night and without proper permits. What makes this interesting is the back story as this story crosses some important themes in the city today:

-Charter Schools
-Churches seeking Parking lot spaces for out of town Parishioners
-Green space
-Environmental concerns for water runoff (especially in the areas near Bloomingdale and Truxton Circle known for inefficient sewers)
-A backdoor deal done without community input or approval

The field is owned by CAPCS Amos-III, a practically failing Charter School (7% of the students proficient in Math, 24% of the students proficient in Reading ). The field was covered over 4 years to accommodate parking for the staff, and more importantly, for the parishioners of the Metropolitan Baptist Church who were supposed to be meeting there for two years while the church completes the building of its new facility in Prince George’s County. Construction of the new church faltered and Metropolitan seems to have taken up permanent residence at CAPCS.

Recently, as the new Dunbar High School neared completion, Pepco started working on installing new fiber optic cables underground at First and P. Under cover of the Pepco construction activity, CAPCS has apparently hired Ft. Myers Construction Company to clear the gravel and install a permanent black top surface. CAPCS did this without the community input or approval, and as far as is known, without the approval of the DC EPA. The reason that approval is needed for something like this is that a large multi-acre field turned paved parking lot pushes significant runoff water into the local sewer system instead of being absorbed by the ground. For an area like Truxton and Bloomingdale that alraedy has issues with flooding in storms, the fact that parking lot was paved without proper approval is staggering.

More amazingly, after the fact, it is revealed that the new ANC5C Commissioner knew about the potential paving of the lot, never brought up the concern with the community, and claimed that it was a good faith effort to help with the neighborhood parking nightmare during the week of the Dunbar opening (and beyond).

However, the Metropolitan Baptist Church sent out an email claiming that the parking lot was built for the benefit of the church.

CAPCS has been trying for the last two years to get the community to approve of the paving of the former green space primarily to accommodate the needs of Metropolitan Baptist Church and whatever other commercial aspirations may be afoot were stunned. The reality is that in the planning of the Dunbar Grand Opening, Amos offered to pave the lot and to provide 50 spaces for attendees to this week’s festivities. The question we must all ask ourselves is: Is the Dunbar Grand Opening the reason or the cover for the paving?

A bigger question is the decision that charter schools like AMOS is making. Most city schools do not have space for a grass field for the children to play during recess or for after school activities. AMOS – III does, but instead of providing a needed service for the kids and the community, it would rather do a backdoor deal with the church to making parking for residents from MD. It are back door deals like these that aid failing schools to stay afloat even though they cannot fill their classrooms.

The Bates Area Civic Association is having a meeting regarding the parking lot issue on Monday, September 16th 7pm at Mt. Sinai Church (3rd and Q St NW). Come to the meeting if you are interested in voicing your opinion about this matter.”

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36 Comment

  • Because tarriness is next to godliness.

  • Religion poisons everything.

  • Bring this matter to the attention of…

    Terry Lynch, Executive Director, Downtown Cluster of Congregations
    Tel. (202) 347-7015
    Fax (202) 347-4630

    …and demand an explanation.

    • That idea would only make sesnse if Metropolitan Baptist were a member of DCC. (It isn’t.)

    • It is amazing that a whole different set of rules apply (or don’t) when it comes to churches in Washington D.C.. Every time i pass that parking lot (half a block from my house) on Sundays it is full of out of state license plates. The sale of that building to the charter school, the long-term leasing of the property to the church for services, and the paving of the parking lot for a church whose congregation seems to be largely from Maryland was clearly not done to benefit our community (and now actually harms our community). I really hope that our representatives and public servants start representing and serving us instead of the churches and their Maryland congregants.

  • Thanks for the heads up, I’ll be at the meeting.

  • The paving of this lot was an outrageous violation of DC law. I’ve lived directly across the street from this property for four years and pay very close attention to the activities of our local civic association and ANC. There was no public notice of this plan. I left my house for a business trip on the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 14 with no activity in the lot across the street. I received a text message from a neighbor on Aug. 15 alerting me to the paving that had begun. By the time I got home on Monday, Aug. 19, the lot was paved and painted with parking stripes. DCRA confirmed that no permits had been obtained for the project. DDOE confirmed that the necessary environmental impact review and approval had not been obtained. The lot has no storm water abatement measures in place. And it effectively negates the millions of tax dollars of storm water control measures incorporated into the new Dunbar High School adjacent to the lot. The open question is whether the city will do anything about this . . . or whether Mr. Amos’ political connections will let him off the hook. It’s quite possible that even if Mr. Amos and his charter school are fined, he’ll simply pay the fine with tax dollars sitting in the school’s coffers. Gotta love DC politics!

  • Hasn’t that area (the part behind the fence in the picture) always been a parking lot? I’ve never seen it used as anything else. What else would it have been? Aside from the permiting angle, I fail to see the scandal of [re?] paving an area that was already being used as a parking lot.

    • Sounds like they replaced a gravel lot, which lets water sink into the ground, with blacktop, which doesn’t. Even for a relatively small lot like this, it can have big impacts on drainage when it rains.

    • Nope, that’s what they would like you to think. The parking didn’t appear until Metro-baptist started renting space from the school. No permits pulled then either.

  • Having seen church parking disputes go down in my own neighborhood, I share the suspicious that this may be more for the benefit of the church than for any other use.

    • Absolutely. And yet even with their god-forsaken illegal parking lot, the miscreants who drive in on Sundays STILL park illegally at every corner, fire hydrant, and crosswalk for blocks in every direction.

  • Churches in this town wield an amazing degree of political clout, and they are well aware that they can get away with almost anything. But in a place where the clergy are all driving around in Mercedes-Benzes, what do you expect?

  • some blame should be put on Joyce Robinson-Paul the ANC for this area. She didn’t inform neighbors properly about this project, but was apparently aware of the plan since she spoke to it’s success when Dunbar opened it’s doors. Besides this incident, she generally sucks. Can’t say a damned thing of value at neighborhood meetings and yet she can speak for 45 mins. Get her OUT!

    • It’s almost uncanny how for years, the businessmen who run the church and the school asked for a curb cut and permission to pave, and were told “no” by the local civic association and ANC for reasons of safety, environment and traffic. Then, as soon as Mrs. Robinson/Paul/Chestnut took over as ANC, the illegal paved parrking lot appeared, by cover of night, with no notice, no discussion, no permits, and no apology.

  • Wow, that’s pretty egregious. If a homeowner did this, the city would have no problem with making them tear it up. Will the same courtesy be shown here?

    • Meanwhile, homeowners in the area are working with the city to get permeable driveways and patios, install rain barrels, plant trees and nuture plant cover. The District proudly advertises its LEEDS school at Dunbar, with cisterns and water absorption. PoP readers will be familiar with the flooding in the area (Bloomingdale/Truxton/Shaw).

      With one act of Fort Myer Construction Company, all that progress is more than wiped out. We citizens will continue to pay surcharges to DC Water for cleaning up the Chesapeake. A badly performing for-profit school and suburban church occupying the Armstrong School however, will not.

    • the moron ANC rep from the area is actively lobbying to have this kept even though it is blatantly illegal. there’s something shady going on there.

  • might want to contact some of the people from DDOE listed here: to see if they can issue fines or make them tear it up and do permeable pavers.

  • Is this the old Armstrong building? I believe Community Academy is leasing the building, so one might want to FOIA the lease with DGS to see what types of notifications are required. I also recommend testifying at the next Council hearing of DGS and the PCSB, as well as the PCSB’s next public meeting (held one a month on Monday nights at their Columbia Heights offices).

    • I stand corrected, looks like they own it. Still even more reason why they should have gone through the possible channels — they can’t blame this on miscommunication with DGS.

  • Additionally, the charter school has to meet some really lofty goals to keep their charter after this year. This parking lot while initially for the church will be a great addition to what will become condos/apartments. Keep in the mind the city sold this building and land for $10k.

  • Tear! It! Up!
    A fine is not sufficient. Tear it up and exact some consequences on the school’s funding.
    So who does the space belong to? If it is dcps, can we demand it be returned to green space? How about if it belongs to the charter school? It really shouldn’t be a parking lot, impervious surface or not.

    • Consequences? That “church” rakes in $100k a week.

      Lord knows how much the “school” takes in from DC in its racket of babysitting PG children.

  • Did you contact your city council man about this? You should and you should also contact at large councilman Grosso

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