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Harris Teeter Approved for Beer & Wine Sales; Opening Set for April 23

By Anthony L. Harvey

Back-to-back unanimous decisions in February and March of 2008 by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) and the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) cleared the way for the Harris Teeter Food Market to open next month with a Class B beer and wine license in the renovated and reconstructed interior of the old roller skating rink known as the Citadel.

Located at 17th Street and Kalorama Road, NW, in the heart of Adams Morgan’s Reed-Cooke section, the Citadel has been the site of a wide variety of eclectic venues since the end of roller skating — from rock concerts, music recording, and use as a movie and television sound stage, to Robert Rauschenberg on skates wearing pelican wings and performing to Merce Cunningham’s choreography and John Cage’s music. More recently an ambitious electronic product launching platform was constructed inside the building and transmission lines were run to provide a nationwide broadcasting capability. It, too, failed to materialize as an on-going operation as did a Reed-Cooke citizen initiative encouraging the city to acquire the building and its site for use as a community center. Now, however, as of opening day on April 23rd, the building will house a major supermarket.

With its exterior handsomely restored and refreshed with updated embellishments designed by architects from Esocoff & Associates, the Citadel retains its unique status as an eccentric, overgrown concrete Quonset hut which, when built, was in what was then a mixed-use, light industrial zone surrounding it. Nowadays it’s in a rapidly gentrifying residential neighborhood which retains its narrow streets for use by an increasingly dense population — governed by what’s known as the Reed Cooke Zoning Overlay. This document stipulates the goals and objectives for a new mixed-use residential and commercial zoning regimen and aims to ensure a harmony between the two uses, with commercial intended to serve the needs of the immediate residents. Where conflicts occur between the overlay and underlying general, across-the-board zoning regulations, the narrower — or more restrictive – uses are said to apply.

The prohibition of “off premise sale of alcohol beverages” is one of the special overlay rules that became the focus of the ABC and BZA controversies. Its adjudication by the BZA arose from an appeal by the Reed-Cooke Neighborhood Association (RCNA) and L. Napoleon Cooper of an interpretive opinion by the Zoning Administrator in the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) which held that Harris Teeter’s proposal for selling beer and wine that constituted less than 15 percent of revenue and occupied no more than five percent of its floor space qualified as an incidental or accessory use and thus did not fall under the prohibition of principal or primary uses specified in the overlay. This argument was articulated with analogous examples by attorneys from Holland and Knight who testified before the BZA on behalf of their client Harris Teeter. Strenuously opposing were the appealing parties, several of whom were able to offer extensive testimony based on their personal participation in the formulation the overlay 25 years ago. Notwithstanding their arguments, the opinion issued by DCRA’s Zoning Administrator was upheld by the BZA.

Although voting against the applicants, BZA member Shane Dettman noted the incongruity of a supermarket being placed in a mixed-use zone of this nature — one with a zoning overlay the goals of which include the protection of a redeveloping residential community and its neighborhood serving small businesses. And indeed, opposition to the underlying supermarket has been the primary motivation for the intense objections of the immediate Reed-Cooke neighbors to the Citadel redevelopment project, which will include an office component and street-level retail when complete. (Ed. Note: For background, see, “Harris Teeter Project Takes New Turn; PUD Application Withdrawn,” InTowner, June 2005, page 1; available in Current & Back Issues Archive at www.intowner.com.)

More distant sections of Adams Morgan have championed the planned location of the highly-praised Harris Teeter operation, as has the Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham who worked closely with the city’s most historic preservation-sensitive developer, Douglas Jemal, to bring this project to fruition. And all of this is occurring in the midst of new and recently completed construction throughout Reed-Cooke. Projects planned and underway include the restoration and expansion of nearby H.D. Cooke Elementary School and the new wing of the Dorchester Apartments immediately adjacent to the Citadel. All of this prompted the BZA in an earlier ruling to direct Harris Teeter to develop a transportation management plan with DC’s Department of Transportation (DDOT) in consultation with the community. (Ed. Note: See, “BZA Approves Citadel Site for Harris Teeter Supermarket,” InTowner, January 2006, page 1.) Consultation was done, although not to the complete satisfaction of all parties.

This, and the Adams Morgan Advisory Neighborhood Commission’s (ANC) voluntary agreement with Harris Teeter regarding its Class B application, were expressly noted by the ABC Board in issuing its February 2008 order granting Harris Teeter its Class B beer and wine off-premises alcohol license with the following conditions:

1. The Applicant shall be required to follow the terms of its voluntary agreement with ANC 1C, dated October 11, 2006; 2. The Applicant shall maintain a dock manager outside during alcoholic beverage deliveries; 3. The Applicant’s weekly alcoholic beverage deliveries shall not exceed fifteen (15); 4. Alcoholic beverage deliveries occurring on Monday through Friday shall occur between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.; 5. and The Applicant shall return for a fact-finding hearing on February 25, 2009 at 1 p.m.”

An anti-climactic coda to the last of the neighborhood protests, joined by one from the ANC, was to occur 6:30 p.m. on March 13th (shortly after we had gone to press) at which time the DC Zoning Commission was scheduled to hear a request from the city’s Office of Planning for a clarifying amendment to the Reed-Cooke Zoning overlay in support of Harris Teeter’s Class B liquor license application. This request was now unnecessary given the recent BZA and ABC decisions in Harris Teeter’s favor, and was expected by be withdrawn, thus obviating the possibility of any alternative proposals being considered by the Zoning Commission from parties, such as Councilmember Graham, either in agreement with the proposal or in opposition, such as the ANC and RCNA, with differing propositions.