HPA NO. 2011-488 (In re. House of God, Inc.)
- HPA Number: 2011-488
- Case Name: In the Matter of: House of God, Inc.
- Location of Property: 1310 East Capitol Street, NE; Square 1035, Lot 70
- Date of Decision: October 17, 2012
- Type of Case/Type of Permit Sought: Demolition
- Disposition: Denied
- Subject Matter(s): Economic Hardship – Generally; Historic District – Contributing Building; Demolition; Historic District; Integrity, Loss of
Summary of Decision:
House of God, Inc. (the "Applicant") sought a permit to demolish a masonry carriage house at the rear of its lot in the Capitol Hill Historic District. Through the neglect of the Applicant, the carriage house had fallen into disrepair and the roof collapsed during a snowstorm in 2010. The Church sought to install a parking pad on the site of the carriage house. The Historic Preservation Review Board ("HPRB") unanimously recommended against the demolition and urged consultation with community organizations. Soon thereafter, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs issued an order to the Applicant to make the carriage house safe through stabilization or removal. The Applicant again applied for a demolition permit and noted their concerns about the safety of the structure. The HPRB again denied the application because demolition would not be consistent with the purposes of the Act.
At the Mayor's Agent hearing, the Applicant argued that stabilizing the carriage house would pose an economic hardship for a small congregation with many members on fixed incomes. The Advisory Neighborhood Commission and several other local groups opposed the application because the carriage house continued to convey aspects of local history.
Economic Hardship – Generally :
When considering whether the failure to issue a permit would impose an economic hardship, the Mayor's Agent can only look to circumstances where failure to issue a permit would amount to a taking of the owner's property without just compensation—in other words, the judicially crafted standard for a regulatory taking. Moreover, since the decision maker must consider the property as a whole, the Mayor's Agent in this case must evaluate the value of both the rowhouse church and the carriage house in the rear.
The Mayor's Agent concluded that while preserving the carriage house may pose an economic burden to the church, it would not rise to the level of an unreasonable economic hardship within the meaning of the Act. The Applicant purchased the property for $50,000 in 1986; similar properties now are appraised at around $1,000,000. The Applicant also has no debt service and has a positive cash flow. Estimates for the repairs to the carriage house are approximately $30,000. Because the Applicant can provide its valuable property as collateral and has stable finances, the Mayor's Agent did not find that repairs would impose an economic hardship.
In addition, reasonable alternative uses include the sale of the property so long as the loss would not be unconscionable. Unlike the Third Church of Christ, Scientist case (HPA 08-141), where the Mayor's Agent found the church could not address economic hardship because its mission was tied to its downtown location and no alternative site was available, the Applicant had not argued that this location on Capitol Hill was integral to its mission.
Integrity, Loss of:
Moreover, the increased costs for stabilization or rehabilitation are attributable directly to the House of God's failure to maintain the building adequately, so granting the permit in this case would set a poor precedent and invite further demolition by neglect.
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