HPA No. 1983-038 (In re. Mt. Jezreel Baptist Church)
- HPA Number: 1983-038
- Case Name: Application for a Demolition Permit for Church Located at 501 E Street, SE
- Location of Property: 501 E Street, SE, Lot 841, Square 830
- Date of Decision: May 18, 1983
- Type of Permit Sought: Demolition
- Disposition: Denied
- Date of Case Summary: July 5, 2007
Summary of Decision:
Mt. Jezreel Baptist Church (the “Applicant”) sought a permit for the demolition of a church located at 501 E Street, SE, a contributing structure to the Capitol Hill Historic District and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Specifically, the Applicant wanted to remove the existing structure due to the deterioration of the building (including termite infestation and severe roof damage) and the growth of the congregation, and build a new church sometime in the future. (According to the Applicant, as a result of the unsafe conditions of the building, religious services were temporarily being held at another church at a monthly cost of $200 plus utilities.) The record showed, through the testimony of expert witnesses, that the building could be rehabilitated at a disputed cost, somewhere between $400,000 and $900,000. (Parties in opposition to the application argued that rehabilitation would cost less than what was estimated by consultants hired by the Applicant.) The Mayor’s Agent denied the permit, finding that the Applicant did not prove that an unreasonable economic hardship would result if the permit were denied because it would not be denied all reasonable use.
Mayor’s Agent – Procedural:
• The affected Advisory Neighborhood Commission opposed the application; the Mayor’s Agent did not state whether he was affording their position “great weight.”
• The Mayor’s Agent stated that for a demolition permit, the burden of proof is on the Applicant.
Consistent with the Purposes of the Act:
The Mayor’s Agent did not discuss whether the structure was contributing to the historic district; opponents argued that “although the Church was covered with permastone it retained its original proportions and dimensions and is part of the fabric of the Capitol Hill Historic District.” The Mayor’s Agent did conclude, however, that the issuance of a demolition permit would not be consistent with the purposes of the Act, because the Applicant failed to “seriously consider” alternatives to demolition and new construction which would have permitted the retention and renovation of the existing structure at less cost. The Mayor’s Agent further stated that consideration of such alternatives is required in order to meet Applicant’s burden of proving unreasonable economic hardship.
Unreasonable Economic Hardship:
The Mayor’s Agent stated that for a demolition permit, the burden of proof is on the Applicant to show that denial of the permit would be “in the public interest” or would result in unreasonable economic hardship. The Mayor’s Agent noted that in order to meet the unreasonable economic hardship test, the Applicant must demonstrate that denial of the permit will preclude it from any reasonable use of the property. The Mayor’s Agent concluded that denial of the permit would not result in unreasonable economic hardship, because the Applicant failed to show that: (1) it could not fully renovate or rehabilitate the building to meet the needs of the congregation for less than the cost of new construction; (2) it had considered alternative financing schemes which would allow the Applicant to rehabilitate the existing structure; and (3) it had investigated a potential sale of the existing building for a profit.
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Metropolitan Baptist Church v. D.C. Dep't of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs - Historic Preservation Review Board District of Columbia. Court of Appeals (1998-09-03)