Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On the need for thumbs

Both ANC 6A and ANC 2C have requested small extensions (or "thumbs") into ANC 6C across 8th St NE and Massachusetts Ave NW, respectively. These requests are motivated by a desire to obtain party status in zoning cases for large development projects that are expected to arise over the next 10 years.

ANC 6A boundary recommendation

ANC 2C boundary recommendation (for new ANC 6E)

By way of background, if a zoning case is within an ANC, that ANC is automatically a party to the case. As a party, the ANC may file motions, cross-examine witnesses, and appeal decisions. Party status also gives the ANC more time to present its case. Other ANCs may seek party status, but it may or may not be granted by the Zoning Commission (ZC) or Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). If another ANC is not given party status, they may still testify in favor or opposition, but their participation is more limited than if they had been granted party status.

According to the zoning regulations, both the ZC and BZA "shall grant party status only if the person requesting party status has clearly demonstrated that the person's interests would likely be more significantly, distinctively, or uniquely affected in character or kind by the proposed zoning action (or relief) than those of other persons in the general public."

Although proximity would likely enter into this determination, having an ANC boundary within a certain distance of a project is neither a guarantee nor a requirement of party status according to the regulations. Rather, the ANC must make the case that it has some special characteristics that merit party status.

In practice, it appears that the ZC and BZA have sometimes used "abutting" or "across the street" as a mental shorthand for judging the merit of a party status request. For example, in ZC 05-37, the Chair of the ZC, Anthony Hood said:
This project is in the boundaries of ANC 6C and ANC 6A has requested party status and I am inclined to oppose ANC 6A for granting party status. Again, there's an appropriate time which ANC 6A would be able to come and express their opposition to the Commission. Now, if it was right across the street, I would be thinking a little differently. The precedent we have done in the past we granted ANCs both party status when it abutted or was within close nature. I think when you're a few blocks away, you also can address that at the appropriate time.
An issue for the Task Force is how to weigh these requests for territorial extensions along with competing Task Force priorities. These include balancing workloads and resources of ANCs, using natural or built features to the extent they make sense to residents in defining the boundaries of ANCs, and designing ANCs and SMDs that are compact and contiguous.

Should the Task Force attempt to strengthen ANC 6A and 2C's arguments for party status in upcoming zoning cases by recommending "thumbs" into ANC 6C?

Cody Rice


  1. From the 2C comments on this site, their proposed extension below Mass Ave is to help provide more-compliant SMD populations, not to gain party status in upcoming development.

    After all, the Dreyfus 395 PUD fronts onto Mass, so 6E would have party status whether they include this "thumb" or not.

    6A's proposed thumb, on the other hand, is explicitly to influence development along the H Street corridor.

  2. Some of us on 7th St would simply like to remain in the same ANC under the same Commissioner we currently have. Adam Healy does a great job for our neighborhood.

  3. Why can't the neighboring ANCs just testify or write letters to make their points? Is ANC 6C notoriously bad at zoning or something?

  4. As a note of clarification, the H Street "thumb" is currently within the boundaries of ANC 6A. We are proposing to keep this block as part of the redistricting process rather than requesting an expansion into 6C's current territory.

    I think ANC 6A clearly laid out its rationale for request -- because of the zoning on the 600 block of H Street, this portion of the Corridor will see 2-3 very large developments which will have a significant impact on 6A residents. Thus, 6A would like to have party status in these cases.

    The problem with party status is that it is only granted or denied at the beginning of the hearing. As a result, you can put dozens or hundreds of hours into a case only to find out at the hearing that it was wasted effort. In the Dreyfus case, our party status request was denied because ANC 6A "wasn't right across the street". Despite what the Zoning Regulations say, in practice being "right across the street" matters for obtaining party status.