Final changes to the first section of the D.C. comprehensive plan are taking shape, and it seems District lawmakers have acquiesced to the demands of activists and some city leaders who worried a previous draft was seriously flawed.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson is circulating a draft of amendments to the plan’s “framework element.” Crucially, Mendelson and his staffers have rewritten a section of the bill that a coalition of housing advocates and developers feared would open the door to a flood of new legal challenges to large new developments.
The chairman had hoped to pass this legislation by now, as changes to this section of the comp plan are broadly seen by the development community as being essential to beating back future lawsuits seeking to hold up planned-unit developments. But he chose to delay consideration while this debate over the language played out.
With issue seemingly resolved, it should set the table for the council to, at last, finalize the amendments to the framework element by Oct. 8.
“We think the language in the revised bill addresses our concerns about fixing the broken PUD process and elevating affordable housing,” said Cheryl Cort, policy director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth and a lead organizer of a campaign to raise awareness about potential problems with the old language. “The chairman really listened carefully and considered all the issues here.”
Cort and many of her colleagues in the housing advocacy world worried that changes to one section of the framework could “generate a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the PUD approval process or would open up PUD approvals to litigation in a brand new way.” A member of the D.C. Zoning Commission voiced similar concerns, as did Planning Director Andrew Trueblood.