HPA No. 1992-213 though 1992-220 (In re. Cathedral Mansions)
- HPA Number: 1992-213 - 1992-220
- Case Name: In Re: 2910 through 2980 Connecticut Avenue, NW
- Location of Property: 2910-2980 Connecticut Avenue, NW
- Date of Decision: 03/08/1993
- Type of Case/Type of Permit Sought: New Construction
- Disposition: Denied
- Date of Case Summary: 7/26/06
Summary of Decision:
District Intown Properties ("Applicant"), applied for a new construction permit to build eight townhouses on the front lawn of an apartment complex known as Cathedral Mansions. The lawn and the apartment building complex were separate lots, and Applicant owned both. Cathedral Mansions is a "resort-style" apartment complex built in the 1920's, located across from the National Zoological Park, and is a locally-designated historic landmark. The Applicant argued that the new construction was compatible with the landmark, and that to deny the permit created an unreasonable economic hardship that constituted a taking. Agreeing with the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, Historic Preservation Review Board and the Commission of Fine Arts, the Mayor's Agent concluded that the new construction was not compatible with the landmark "because the project would destroy the landscaped lawn of [Cathedral Mansions] - a crucial and integral part of the landmark and important to all the reasons underlying the landmark decision." The Mayor's Agent also determined that Applicant failed to demonstrate the existence of an unreasonable economic hardship.
Mayor's Agent - Procedural:
- The Mayor's Agent stated, "the Act requires... that the Mayor's Agent carefully consider the recommendations and concerns of the Commission of Fine Arts and the Historic Preservation Review Board," citing Committee for Washington's Riverfront Parks v. Thompson , 451 A.2d 1177, 1193-94 (D.C. 1982).
- The Mayor's Agent stated, "D.C. Code §1-261 (d) requires the Mayor's Agent to give 'great weight' to the opinion of the ANC, i.e., to make explicit reference to each ANC issue and concern, to make specific findings and conclusions with respect to each issue and concern, and to acknowledge the ANC as the source of each issue and concern," citing Kopff v. District of Columbia ABC Board, 381 A.2d 1372, 1381 (D.C. 1977).
- The Mayor's Agent stated that the Applicant has the burden to prove that the proposed construction is compatible with the landmark, citing In Re 517 2nd Street, S.W. (8 OAD Reports, 75, 78 (1992).
The Mayor's Agent repeated the statutory standard for approval of new construction permits affecting historic landmarks: "a permit for new construction must be issued unless the proposed construction is incompatible with the character of the historic landmark." While acknowledging that the proposed design for the townhouses "fits" with that of the existing buildings, the Mayor's Agent determined that "for most of [the District's well-known historic landmarks, including the White House and Capitol], their landmark status would have to include their landscape... " The Mayor's Agent agreed with the Commission of Fine Arts, Historic Preservation Board, and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, that the proposed construction was not compatible with the landmark. He concluded "[t]he landscaped lawn of [Cathedral Mansions] is vitally important to the landmark because it establishes the building as a resort-like apartment building..." and "the proposed construction would be incompatible with the landmark because the design of the new buildings would result in the destruction of an integral part of the landmark."
Unreasonable Economic Hardship:
The Applicant argued that denial of the permits would constitute an unreasonable economic hardship rising to the level of a constitutional taking, citing profits that would be lost by not improving the lawn lot with townhouses, and the costs of maintaining the lawn in a park-like condition. Although the Mayor's Agent acknowledged the government was taking away "the Applicant's right to do anything it wishes to do with [the property]," he asserted that having the government limit what one can do on their property does not amount to a taking. Additionally, the Mayor's Agent pointed to the fact that the Applicant had made no additional investment to obtain the lawn lot, and that the Applicant used the large lawn to attract tenants and receive higher rents for apartment units that face the lawn, as evidence that the lawn retained economic value without the townhouses, and thus denial of the permit was not an unconstitutional taking.
Prior and Subsequent History:
See HPA No. 1989-395 through 1989-402, order of December 20, 1991 for prior history, and District Intown Properties Ltd. v. DCRA , 680 A.2d 1373 (D.C. 1996), District Intown Properties Ltd. Partnership v. District of Columbia , 23 F. Supp.2d 30 (D.D.C. 1998), and District Intown Properties Ltd. Partnership v. District of Columbia , 198 F.3d 874 (D.C. Cir. 1999) for subsequent history.
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