D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said Wednesday he is disappointed by the National Capital Planning Commission’s decision to reject future potential changes to the federal Height Act.
During a press briefing, Gray noted that the NCPC’s staff recommendation did not propose new heights, but rather would have offered District officials the opportunity to weigh on height limit changes outside L’Enfant City through the Comprehensive Plan process — a process that still would have required NCPC and congressional sign-off.
“I call it a Home Rule issue, that is giving the authority to the elected officials of the District of Columbia to be able to make those decisions about what the heights would be, if there were any changes, where they would happen,” Gray said. “It was a disappointing outcome. I didn’t expect the outcome that occurred [Tuesday].”
“But we’ll keep working with this,” Gray continued. “People don’t like change, period. This was not just resisting change, it was resisting the opportunity to make change that people still would have had an opportunity to weigh in on.”
The commission’s decision is a likely death blow for Height Act reforms, though Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who requested the joint Height Act report from the District and the NCPC, is still expected to hold a hearing on the matter next month.
Four hours of public comment prior to the NCPC vote was dominated entirely by D.C. residents that want the Height Act to stay unchanged. Numerous people testified that amending the Height Act would be a gift to developers, and several claimed the development community wants to destroy the District’s “iconic horizontal skyline” solely for profit.
Ernie Jarvis, president of the D.C. Building Industry Association, said the NCPC was fully aware of the development community’s position on the Height Act.
“We have submitted our position to all the relevant decision makers,” he said. “We have been certainly involved and we know our voice has been heard. We thought that we participated in a thoughtful way.”
But the decision, he said, “seems contrary to our Home Rule desire.”