CSG in the News: New D.C. Comp Plan Bill Could ‘Open A Pandora’s Box’ To More Development Appeals

New D.C. Comp Plan Bill Could ‘Open A Pandora’s Box’ To More Development Appeals

by Jon Banister, Bisnow Washington, D.C., September 12, 2019

The D.C. Council is nearing a final vote on the first set of amendments to the city’s comprehensive plan, but planning officials and advocates are raising concerns around changes that they say could allow more of the appeals that have delayed dozens of developments….

Director of Planning Andrew Trueblood sent a letter Wednesday to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, which he shared with Bisnow, detailing issues with specific additions the council made to the plan that he said could lead more housing developments to become stuck in court.  “What we think this language does is it adds to the uncertainty,” Trueblood tells Bisnow. “When you have uncertainty, often that can result in more litigation. We are trying to create a Framework Element and a remainder of the Comprehensive Plan that is clearer to avoid uncertainty, ambiguity and unnecessary litigation.”…

Coalition for Smarter Growth Policy Director Cheryl Cort raised concerns around the same section of the bill, which she described as a “crisis.”

“The PUD language in the council version of this bill opens up a Pandora’s box for new litigation,” Cort said. “This whole exercise was supposed to resolve this issue with the court where thousands of new homes were held up in appeals. This bill does the opposite. It throws us into greater uncertainty.”

Cort said she supports the revisions that Trueblood proposed to resolve the issue. She added that the specific language around neighborhood character is reminiscent of past methods of blocking new housing development.

“It really smacks of exclusionary zoning that has been used in the past to perpetuate housing segregation,” Cort said.

A Mendelson spokesperson tells Bisnow the chairman’s office has heard recent concerns from members of the public around language in the bill and is continuing to review the issues ahead of the scheduled vote.

Read full story here.

Read the DC Office of Planning Letter here. Note: DC Council vote is now scheduled for October 8, 2019.