The Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 2B) is publishing a working draft version of a resolution for the Historic Preservation Review Board on development at 1772 Church Street NW (St. Thomas Church). The ANC is publishing this draft in anticipation of its September 29th special meeting on the topic and invites public comment on the resolution’s message, tone and specific language.
Commissioners may post additional resolutions for public comment and may introduce other motions at the meeting on Monday.
We invite you to provide your thoughts in the comments section below, to email all eight Commissioners at email@example.com, and to speak to us directly at the September 29th meeting. The meeting is taking place at 7:00 pm in the SAIS building at 1717 Massachusetts Ave NW, Room 500. Further information on that meeting and a link to download revised development plans is available here.
The Historic Preservation Review Board has asked that we remind neighbors that they may comment directly to the Board either at the October 2nd Board meeting or by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Board requests your comments by end of day September 29th.
The working draft resolution is available below and for download here.
Whereas, the project team for 1772 Church Street NW have submitted design plans to the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) for review of concept and massing of a renovated church structure and a new residential structure;
Whereas, the development of the two components is to occur concurrently and was applied for together, ANC 2B has reviewed the religious and residential components separately, as required by Federal law;
Whereas, the project team submitted drawings in July that ANC 2B reviewed and commented on;
Whereas, in July, ANC 2B agreed with the Dupont Circle Conservancy in noting concern that “the residential massing presents an incongruous transition on the Church Street with the rest of the block.” ANC 2B suggested that the designers reduce bulk adjacent to the townhouses on Church Street with a more gradual increase in height from the east to the west;
Whereas, ANC 2B recognizes that the project team has made changes to the design that address concerns raised in the July ANC resolution, including reducing bulk at the far east side of the project;
Whereas, there remain significant concerns from neighbors regarding total massing, setbacks on all sides of the lot, as well as elimination of park and green space;
Whereas, there is general consensus that the totality of the project is large in its scale and massing, however this is not consensus on whether that will have positive or negative impacts on the neighborhood. Additionally, there are architectural approaches that can be introduced to reduce the perceived massing and height, particularly from the ground;
Whereas, ANC 2B supports a community involvement process, led by the office of Councilmember Jack Evans, that will bring together neighbors, the applicant, the developer and the ANC to proactively address potential negative impacts on quality-of-life issues such as light and air quality, traffic congestion and safety, parking, loading and unloading, and others;
Whereas, ANC 2B recognizes that these quality-of-life concerns are generally addressed through a zoning process that the ANC will hear in the near future, but that these concerns are also directly correlated to the massing of the structure that is the subject of HPRB review, especially the residential component that will house perhaps one hundred new residents, and also to the concept design of the structure that is subject to HPRB review, especially whether the design incorporates parking/loading/unloading elements sufficient to accommodate the proposed uses of the building, and that therefore these concerns are appropriate to address to HPRB and should be taken into account by HPRB; and
Whereas, the ANC in prior church construction or renovation projects has had concerns that the HPRB does not take into account applicable constitutional and federal law – including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act (RLUIPA) – and that the HPRB has not recognized that these federal laws supersede the HPRB’s own regulations and impose further limitations the HPRB’s authority.
Therefore, be it RESOLVED that ANC 2B does not object to the concept and massing of the religious component of the project and strongly urges the HPRB to take seriously its duty to follow applicable federal law – including RFRA and RLUIPA – by not imposing undue burdens on the use of this property for religious purposes; and
Be it further RESOLVED that ANC 2B would support the residential component massing and concept under the following conditions:
- The project team begins active participation in a committee made up of neighbors, the church and the ANC to proactively address potential zoning and quality-of-life related matters prior to submitting an application for any zoning variances;
- The project team hires a professional arborist and submits plans to the ANC and HPRB that include methods to protect and preserve existing trees to the extent possible and, where not possible, to replace them;
- The plans are altered so that the setback of the ground floor on Church Street from the sidewalk is consistent from the residential to religious components (maximizing that setback where possible); and
- As recommended in the HPO staff report, the project team reexamine some of the earlier design elements as they relate to expression of the project at the pedestrian level and determine ways to improve the design’s relation to the street and overall unity of the two components.