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Spring Valley-Wesley Heights Citizens Ass'n v. District of Columbia Zoning Commission

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

November 14, 2013

SPRING VALLEY-WESLEY HEIGHTS CITIZENS ASSOCIATION and WESTOVER PLACE HOMES CORPORATION, PETITIONERS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ZONING COMMISSION, RESPONDENT. AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, INTERVENOR

Argued April 4, 2013.

Amended March 27, 2014[1] .

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On Petition for Review of Orders of the District of Columbia Zoning Commission. (Nos. 11-07 & 11-07A).

Michael Mazzuchi for petitioners.

Irvin B. Nathan, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, Donna M. Murasky, Deputy Solicitor General, and James C. McKay, Jr., Senior Assistant Attorney General, filed a statement in lieu of brief in support of intervenor.

Paul J. Kiernan, with whom Paul A. Tummonds, Jr. and Cary Kadlecek were on the brief, for intervenor.

Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, GLICKMAN, Associate Judge, and RUIZ, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 703

Glickman, Associate Judge :

Because its campuses are in residentially-zoned areas of the District of Columbia, American University (" AU" ) is required by the District's Zoning Regulations to submit its campus development plans to the District of Columbia Zoning Commission for special exception approval.[2] The Zoning Commission also must approve AU's applications for further processing of an approved campus plan to permit the construction and use of specific buildings on campus.[3] Now before us for review are two orders of the Commission approving AU's Campus Plan for the current decade

Page 704

and further processing applications for campus development and dormitory construction. Petitioners, two neighborhood associations that participated in the proceedings before the Commission, claim that it erred in sanctioning AU's plans. In Appeal No. 12-AA-723, we are persuaded that certain material determinations in the order in Zoning Commission Case No. 11-07 approving AU's Campus Plan and certain further processing applications are inadequately explained. Accordingly, we grant the petition for review in No. 12-AA-723 and remand for the Commission to address these particular deficiencies. In Appeal No. 12-AA-724, however, we uphold the Commission's order (Z.C. Case No. 11-07A) granting AU's further processing application for the construction of a student residence building known as North Hall.

I. Background

AU has two campuses plus a law school in northwest Washington, D.C. The Main Campus is on a seventy-six acre plot of land at Ward Circle, where Nebraska and Massachusetts Avenues intersect. To the east, approximately a mile away, the eight-acre Tenley Campus is at Tenley Circle, where Nebraska Avenue intersects with Wisconsin Avenue. And the Washington College of Law (AU's law school) is in a building on Massachusetts Avenue several blocks north of the Main Campus. In the 2011 Campus Plan that AU submitted to the Zoning Commission, AU sought approval of an increase in its student enrollment cap and a variety of changes and improvements, including three proposed developments related to the proposed increase in student enrollment that are central to the present appeal.

First, AU sought permission to relocate the Washington College of Law to the Tenley Campus in 2015. Second, AU asked the Commission to approve its plan to construct three new student residence halls and three academic buildings on what is now a University parking lot on Nebraska Avenue at the edge of the Main Campus, transforming it into what is to be called the East Campus. Third, AU also requested approval to construct a new dormitory building to be called North Hall at the northwest end of the Main Campus on Massachusetts Avenue. Petitioners' objections before us in this appeal relate primarily to AU's student enrollment and these three projects.

AU submitted its proposed Campus Plan to the Zoning Commission, together with further processing applications for the East Campus, North Hall, and other projects not involved in this appeal, in March 2011. The Commission held hearings on AU's proposals from June to November 2011. It received written submissions and heard testimony from AU officials; Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (" ANCs" ) 3D, 3E, and 3F; [4] the D.C. Office of Planning and the District's Department of Transportation; [5] and several neighborhood groups and one individual that were granted party status, including petitioners Spring Valley-Wesley Heights Citizens Association (" SVWHCA" ) and Westover Place Homes Corporation (" Westover Place" ). During the pendency of the proceedings before the Commission, AU made numerous modifications to its proposals in response to the concerns and

Page 705

objections of these other parties. Ultimately, after requesting and receiving further submissions, the Zoning Commission voted 4-0 to approve the 2011 Campus Plan and the North Hall further processing application, subject to various ...


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