CHRISTOPHER S. HOWELL, et al., PETITIONERS, and EASTERN MARKET METRO COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION, INTERVENORS,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ZONING COMMISSION, RESPONDENT, and STANTON-EASTBANC LLC, et al., INTERVENORS
Argued: September 26, 2013
Petitions for Review of a Decision of the District of Columbia Zoning Commission. (ZC-24-11).
Oliver B. Hall for petitioners and intervenor Eastern Market Metro Community Association.
Irvin B. Nathan, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Donna M. Murasky, Deputy Solicitor General, filed a statement in lieu of brief for respondent.
Vincent Mark J. Policy, with whom William C. Casano and Jacques B. DePuy were on the brief, for intervenor Stanton-EastBanc LLC.
Before FISHER and MCLEESE, Associate Judges, and PRYOR, Senior Judge.
Fisher, Associate Judge.
On March 8, 2013, the Zoning Commission for the District of Columbia approved a zoning map amendment and an application for a planned unit development (PUD) at the site of the former Hine Junior High School. Petitioners, thirteen neighbors of the Hine School site, and intervenor Eastern Market Metro Community Association (EMMCA) (collectively " petitioners" ) principally claim that the Commission (1) failed to appropriately address the significant height and mass of the development, (2) did not adequately evaluate the affordable housing component of the plan, and (3) neglected to examine the Land Disposition and Development Agreement (LDDA). We affirm.
After Hine Junior High School closed in 2008, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development launched a competitive bid process for redeveloping the site. On July 13, 2010, the Council of the District of Columbia approved the disposition of the property to the winning bidder, Stanton-EastBanc LLC. During and after this process, the developer engaged community residents, business leaders, and civic organizations, seeking input on future use of the 3.16 acre site, which is across
Pennsylvania Avenue from the Eastern Market Metro Station. Stanton-EastBanc then submitted a PUD application and Zoning Map Amendment to the Zoning Commission.
The application proposed razing the school and constructing a large residential, office, and retail development in two buildings. The North Building would be entirely residential and contain only affordable housing, while the larger South Building would be mixed-use. Stanton-EastBanc also proposed creating a plaza between the two buildings and reopening a block of C Street that had been eliminated in the early 1960s to make room for a playground.
In hundreds of letters and dozens of appearances during three public hearings before the Zoning Commission, community members commented on the proposal. Many residents, community groups, and businesses supported the project, including Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B, which negotiated a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Stanton-EastBanc. A significant number of local residents and organizations, including petitioners, opposed the project. Stanton-EastBanc eventually secured approval for the PUD from the Office of Planning (OP), the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), the Department of Transportation (DDOT), the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), and the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED). After hearing from all of these participants, the Zoning Commission approved the PUD design and the zoning change.
II. The Zoning Commission's Role
The PUD process provides developers greater design and planning flexibility than may be possible under conventional zoning procedures. See 11 DCMR § § 2400.2, .4 (2013). " A P.U.D. applicant generally requests that a site be rezoned to allow more intensive development, in exchange for which the applicant offers to provide 'amenities' or 'public benefits' which would not be provided if the site were developed under matter-of-right zoning." Blagden Alley Ass'n v. District of Columbia Zoning Comm'n, 590 A.2d 139, 140 n.2 (D.C. 1991) (citing 11 DCMR § 2400.2). When evaluating a PUD application, the Zoning Commission is required to " judge, balance, and reconcile the relative value of the project amenities and public benefits offered, the degree of development incentives requested, and any potential adverse effects according to the specific circumstances of the case." 11 DCMR § 2403.8 (2013).
" Because of the Commission's statutory role and subject-matter expertise, we generally defer to the Commission's interpretation of the zoning regulations and their relationship to the [Comprehensive] Plan." Durant v. District of Columbia Zoning Comm'n, 65 A.3d 1161, 1166-67 (D.C. 2013) (citations omitted). " [W]e must affirm the Commission's decision so long as (1) it has made findings of fact on each material contested issue; (2) there is substantial evidence in the record to support each finding; and (3) its conclusions of law follow rationally from those findings." Id. at 1167 (citations omitted). " Where the Commission has fully addressed the applicable aspects, policies, and material issues regarding the Plan, this court will not substitute its own judgment for that of the Commission." Id. at 1168 (citations omitted).
III. Height and Mass