Proposed building brings zoning debate to new heights

Michelle Basch,

WASHINGTON – Debate continues over whether a building height rule that preserves D.C.’s unique look should be changed.

Meanwhile, a building that would be an exception to the city’s zoning rules moves closer to fruition.

On a stretch of M Street Southwest near Nationals Park and the Waterfront Metro Station, where building height normally stops at 40 feet, D.C.’s Zoning Commission has approved an exception to allow a 110-foot-tall building.

A final vote is still ahead.

“The net result is a building that may be a little bit tall,” says Commissioner Peter Mary. “But it’s certainly not out of character for the neighborhood.”

“I don’t believe this particular building will be a detriment when it’s finally built,” Commissioner Marcia Cohen says. “I mean, this is a neighborhood that does have a diversity of heights.”

However, some potential neighbors to the building are upset — and not just about the height.

The site used to house a church that was ravaged by mold. Commissioners say the problem is solved, but residents like Michael Krause worry there’s mold in the soil that could get into the air and make those in the area with weakened immune systems sick.

“You are skirting with life and death issues,” says Krause.

Neighbor Grace Daughtridge is concerned about the potential loss of several large trees on the building site that had originally been preserved by the city in the 1960s.

Others are concerned with parking, which is already problematic for those living near Nationals Park.

The plan is for the new building to have about 210 apartments, but the garage will only have about 151 parking spaces and tenants won’t be able to park on the street.

“People that live in that building will not be allowed to get a parking sticker to park out on the street in their own neighborhood that they live in,” Daughtridge says. “That’s a second-class citizen.”

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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