Topic: Concerned with BZA loosely approving high density zoning adjustments to permit 4 unit condo in R4, single family neighborhood
Concerned with BZA loosely approving high density zoning adjustments to permit 4 unit condo in R4, single family neighborhood
I thought that some of you might be interested to hear that the guardians of zoning rules have abrogated their duty to protect the community in order to benefit one of their own, the former Chairman of the BZA Board. The case (#18448) concerns an investor who applied for an adjustment to build four condo units in a row house normally limited to two units in an R4 area. He wants to accomplish this by popping the roof of the two story townhouse, which sits in a row of two story townhomes with similar facades. Even an adjustment to three units would have cut some balance between the interests of the community and the investor. The January 15 decision, however, places the entire burden on the community (aesthetic interruption of an historic row, higher density on a one-way single-family street, reduced parking, etc.) to benefit of an investor who wants to make more money than is legal allowable without an adjustment, which is supposed to be exceptional.
The decision is foul on two levels: how is the Board supposed to rule objectively when the applicant is represented by the former Chairperson? The decision does appear to be consistent with adjustment rules, supporting the contention that this is insider trading and influence peddling. However, the ruling has not been published so there is time to intervene. In any case, the parties against the petition plan to appeal.
The Ruling does not apply the three pronged test, which is intended to make adjustment exceptional and protect the community, stringently. The Chairman and the Board appeared to rule solely on practical difficulty, represented by financial needs of the investor. However, this financial difficulty does not amount to practical difficulty of the property. The lot is completely rectangular and ordinary, and the investor provided no evidence of surprising structural degradation. Furthermore, during the hearing the investor supported his claim by highlighted the difficulty he has experienced selling the basement unit of a three condo building he completed around the corner on 13th Street. A variance to the zoning code should not be used to increase the profits of investors or rescue an investor out of a completely predictable financial situation. The variance does represent a practical difficulty to the neighborhood, the third test. A four unit condo is substantial variance burdening the livability of an R-4 neighborhood in terms of parking, combined sewer load, and architectural cohesion.
Your concerned readers can follow the case at the address below and should write the BZA, the Board of Zoning, their Councilman, and the Mayor.