Acheson v. Scheaffer
- Title: Acheson v. Scheaffer
- Citation: 520 A.2d 318 (D.C. 1987)
- Decided Date: 26-Jan-87
Petitioner filed a suit in the D.C. Superior Court challenging the Acting Surveyor’s approval of respondent’s request to consolidate four rectangular lots in the Georgetown Historic District into two lots of record without first complying with the procedural requirements of the D.C. Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act (“the Act”). Although the D.C. Subdivision Regulations defined a subdivision as “the division or assembly of land into one or more lots of record,” the Act limited the term “subdivision” to the “division of a lot into 2 or more lots of record.” The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the suit, holding that “the action taken by the Acting Surveyor did not fall within the Act’s definition of ‘subdivision,’ and was not, therefore, subject to the Act’s procedural requirements.”
D.C. Administrative Procedure Act:
The Court rejected the petitioner’s argument that the Acting Surveyor’s interpretation of the term “subdivision” was an administrative rule under the D.C. Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), and was thus required to comply with the APA’s procedural requirement of notice-and-comment rulemaking. Under § 1-1502(6) of the APA, a “rule” is defined as “the whole or part of any Mayor’s or agency’s statement of general or particular applicability and future effect designed to implement, interpret, or prescribe law or policy or to describe the organization, procedure, or practice requirements of the Mayor or any agency.” Citing the Supreme Court’s decision in SEC v. Chenery, 332 U.S. 194 (1947), the Court held that the Acting Surveyor’s action was not a rule under the APA and was thus not subject to its procedural requirements.
- The Court held that the assembly of four lots into two lots of record was not a “subdivision” triggering the procedural requirements of § 5-1102 of the Act. Because the Act defined the term “subdivision” as the “division of a lot into 2 or more lots of record,” the assembly of lots was beyond the reach of the Act.
- The Court emphasized that the DC Council’s “omission of assemblies of land from the purview of the Act was deliberate.” The Court quoted from the legislative history of the Act, stating that § 5-1102 “does not cover an aggregation of two or more lots into a single lot. This act is designed to maintain the character of historic landmarks and districts by limiting the loss of open space, which contributes to the character of those landmarks and districts. The act of an assemblage of lots without more does not adversely affect the goals of this Act.”
In 19__, the D.C. Council enacted an amendment to the D.C. Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act, which expanded the meaning of the term “subdivision” to include “the division or assembly of land into 1 or more lots of record” (emphasis added).
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