‘Backwards’ HPRB/Zoning Process Reviewed
The Economic Development and Zoning Committee is taking action against a series of procedures that they say DC has backwards. As it stands, someone who wants to develop a property needs to go to the Historic Preservation Review Board first to make sure that their proposed development doesn’t violate any historic restrictions. Then the person goes to the Board of Zoning Adjustment, taking them through a tougher process to determine whether their proposal violates any zoning regulations. And finally, they get approval on any use of public space their proposal may involve.
The committee researched other cities’ systems, and they found that in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston, zoning and permit issues need to be resolved before the local historic commission reviews the plans. They concluded, “We believe that the current system in Washington, DC, would be improved by a change in the order of review. Putting the public space and zoning issues ahead of the historic review would give HPRB the ability to review the project in total in making their decision.”
Commissioner Alberti agreed that it makes sense to reverse the order. “How can HPRB rule on design issues when BZA hasn’t ruled on how much space you can occupy and for what uses, and how can BZA decided how much space you can use without talking to Public Space?” he wondered. “DC is anomalous.”
The commission agreed to send a letter to the mayor and DC Council, per the committee’s recommendation, suggesting that the city restructure its permitting process.