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Breaking News: DC Court of Appeals Vacates St. Thomas Zoning Variance

The information below was provided by the Dupont Circle Citizens Association which was the plaintiff in the case recently decided.

“On April 12, 2018, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued a decision in favor of the petition for review filed by the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA) asking that the order of the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) granting a zoning variance for the construction project at Church and 18th Streets be vacated.(Dupont Circle Citizens Association, et al. v. District of Columbia Board of Zoning Adjustment and St. Thomas Episcopal Parish, et al.)

“The Court of Appeals found that the BZA misapplied the standards governing the granting of an area variance. The BZA based its order on a finding that a structure “contributing” to a historic district was in itself a sufficient exceptional circumstance to warrant relief from the requirements of the zoning law. As the court noted, however, the vast majority of buildings in the Dupont Circle Historic District are contributing structures and thus the vast majority of buildings in the historic district would qualify under the analysis put forth by the BZA. Consequently, the court concluded, exceptional circumstances were not demonstrated in this instance.

“DCCA is heartened by the Court of Appeals’ decision. Robin Diener, DCCA’s President, said that “the decision reinforces the need for the BZA to act in accordance with the zoning laws, regulations and court decisions. It’s unfortunate that the developer and the church did not listen to the community during the early stages of this project.”

“The St. Thomas developer has proceeded with construction at its own risk while the Court of Appeals’ deliberations were underway. DCCA will ask the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) whether an order to stop construction of the project will be issued — in light of the Court’s decision — until meaningful discussion can be had by all parties about options.”