*Title: D.C. Preservation League v. D.C. Dep't of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs
*Citation: 711 A.2d 1273 (D.C. 1998)
*Decided Date: 29-May-98
The D.C. Preservation League appealed the Mayor’s Agent’s approval of a demolition permit for portions of the landmark Vigilant Firehouse building, challenging her interpretation of the definition of the term “demolition”—as distinguished from “alteration”—in the Historic Preservation Act.
Because the Act limits the definition of “alteration” to exterior changes (except when any interior spaces have been specifically designated), and because the landmark Vigilant Firehouse’s north wall was an interior wall at the time of both the building’s designation and the issuance of the demolition permit, the Court of Appeals affirmed the Mayor’s Agent’s conclusion that the wall was not subject to the demolition provisions of the Act.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the Mayor’s Agent’s conclusion that the landmark Vigilant Firehouse’s south wall did not contribute to or enhance the landmark given its advanced state of deterioration. The wall “had been torn down previously and was severely deteriorated, and the majority of the bricks, of which it was constructed, were beyond repair.”
The Court of Appeals, in a footnote, rejected the petitioner’s argument that the demolition of—as opposed to an addition to—a “substantial portion of a landmark” can never be consistent with the purposes of the Act. The court noted that §§ 6-1101(b)(2) and 6-1104(e), taken together, “permits partial demolition of a [historic structure, provided that it] retains and enhances the landmark and encourages adaptation for future use.”
*Standard of Review:*
*Quoting DCPL v. DCRA, 646 A.2d 984, 989 (D.C. 1994), the court noted that it “will not disturb the factual findings of the Mayor’s Agent if they are supported by substantial evidence in the record.”
*The court also quoted Coumaris v. District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, 660 A.2d 896, 899 (D.C. 1995), noting that while its “review of an agency’s legal determinations is de novo, we will accord deference to an agency’s interpretation of the statute which it is responsible for administering if it ‘is reasonable and not plainly wrong or inconsistent with its legislative purpose.’”
*The Court of Appeals concluded that the Mayor’s Agent did not abuse her discretion in approving the issuance of a demolition permit for portions of the landmark Vigilant Firehouse. The Court based its conclusions on the finding that the Mayor’s Agent based her decision on the statutory requirement that such demolition “encourage the restoration of historic landmarks” and that she correctly considered the entire project in assessing whether demolition would encourage the landmark’s enhancement.