*HPA Number: 1995-010
*Case Name: In the Matter of Capitol House Condominium
*Location of Property: 305 C Street, N.E.
*Date of Decision: 6/23/1995
*Type of Permit Sought: Alteration
*Date of Case Summary: 7/25/2006
Capitol House Condominium (Applicant) sought an alteration permit to install a concrete pad and construct a seven-foot high wooden fence to enclose recycling bins and a dumpster within public space in the Capitol Hill Historic District. The Mayor's Agent denied the permit, concluding the project was not necessary in the public interest because it was neither consistent with the purposes of the act, nor one of special merit, and that denial would not impose an unreasonable economic hardship on the Applicant.
*Mayor's Agent – Procedural:*
• The Mayor's Agent stated that pursuant to D.C. Code § 5-1005, before the Mayor may issue a permit to alter the exterior of a historic landmark or of a building or structure in the historic district, the Mayor shall review the application in accordance with this section.
• The Mayor's Agent stated that pursuant to D.C. Code § 5-1005(f), no alteration permit may be issued unless the Mayor finds that such issuance is necessary in the public interest or that a failure to issue a permit will result in unreasonable economic hardship to the owner.
*Consistent with the Purposes of the Act:*
Applicant proposed to install a concrete pad and construct a seven-foot high wooden fence to enclose a dumpster and recycling bins. The Mayor's Agent concluded that the proposed project was not consistent with the purposes of the Act because it would not "contribute to the character of the historic district" and was therefore not "compatible." While commending the Applicant for submitting "what it believes to be architecturally-sensitive," the Mayor's Agent concluded a stockade fence surrounding a dumpster would set a precedent for "legally permitting others to place, on a permanent basis, dumpsters and recycling bins on public space throughout historic districts."
*Project of Special Merit – Exemplary Architecture:*
The Mayor's Agent commended the Applicant for proposing an "architecturally-sensitive" plan, but found that a seven-foot high wooden fence to enclose a dumpster and recycling bins did not constitute "exemplary architecture." The Mayor's Agent rejected the Applicant's argument that the project would enhance the "beautification" of the area, and "that any beautification of the neighborhood would have special merit."
*Project of Special Merit – Specific Features of Land Planning:*
Despite testimony from a neighbor and resident of the Capitol House Condominium that the project would improve the neighborhood and area by moving the dumpster from the Condominium's driveway into the proposed closed area, the Mayor's Agent concluded that the project did not demonstrate specific features of land planning.
*Project of Special Merit – Social or Other Benefits Having a High Priority for Community Services:*
Despite testimony from a neighbor of the Capitol House Condominium that the proposed fence would keep vagrants from getting in the dumpster, the Mayor's Agent concluded that the project lacked social or other benefits of a high priority to the community.
*Unreasonable Economic Hardship:*
The Applicant argued that denial of the project would result in unreasonable economic hardship because the two alternatives Applicant had considered – purchase of existing parking spaces to place the trash dumpster in the rear, or cutting an opening for the dumpster in the back of the building – were either cost prohibitive or "not [a] viable solution." Citing applicable regulations, the Mayor's Agent stated that unreasonable economic hardship was defined to mean that "failure to issue a permit would amount to a taking of the owner's property without just compensation, or, in the case of low-income owner(s) as determined by the Mayor, failure to issue a permit would place an onerous and excessive financial burden upon such owner(s)." The Mayor's Agent further cited regulations requiring that various affidavits and other information be submitted in cases of claims involving unreasonable economic hardship. Finding that the Applicant had not submitted the required information, he concluded that "[t]he Applicant…failed to submit financial information…to demonstrate that a failure to issue a permit would result in unreasonable economic hardship."
See Foster v. Mayor's Agent for Historic Preservation, 698 A. 2d 411 (D.C. 1997) for subsequent history.