Click here for their press release.
Northeast Neighbors for Responsible Growth would like to alert you to a threat to your community posed by a change in zoning regulations pending passage by the Zoning Commission.
- Your community may be unaware of this change
- There will be NO public hearings on this change that can dramatically affect your community
- This change makes it possible for a commercial-style enterprise to locate in a residential building in your community as a matter of right, bypassing the special exception process that gives citizens input into decisions affecting their neighborhoods
New zoning regulating for schools, to accommodate charter schools, were set for passage at the July 10, 2006, meeting of the Commission. A last minute change was made to alter the proposal. This change exempted small charter schools from the special exception process allowing them to locate in residential buildings in any zoning classification in the City as a matter of right.
The Zoning Commission published the proposed new regulation in the District Register on Friday, July 21, 2006. (See attached.) There is a 30-day period for written public comment but there will be no public hearings. The measure is set for final passage on September 11, 2006. The Advisory Neighborhood Commissions were not notified and, as you know, most of them do not meet in August.
Northeast Neighbors was aware of this only because we attended the Zoning Commission meeting that evening. NNRG comprises a large group of residents of the Lincoln Park area of the Capital Hill Historic District. We have been actively opposing the plans of a powerful, well-financed charter school to locate a large school in a small residentially-zoned property in the middle of a block of Victorian rowhouses in our neighborhood. Our attorneys, local elected officials and civic groups have been instrumental in getting the legislation as far as it has gotten and we are actively tracking it.
Before this change, it would have protected your community and ours from a charter school locating in a residential property without the consent of the neighborhood. If this change is approved, your new next-door neighbor could be a school. And there would be nothing you could do about it! You will NOT be notified of their intention to move in. There will be NO hearing. If you object to something about the operation of the school, well, too bad! They will have a right to be there!
In summary, what this means to your community is this:
- A small charter school can open in a residential unit in your community without notifying you.
- The is no special exception process that provides you the opportunity to comment on whether the school can locate in your neighborhood or to have any say as to the traffic, parking, trash disposal, noise, hours of operation or other factors involved.
- There are no safeguards against the number of schools that can open in a single square or within any distance of one another. This could lead to a concentration of schools in some neighborhoods.
- Charter schools in the District currently include early childhood through adult education and some include infant care. In some cases, the students may have cars, so parking may be an additional issue over which you have no control.
We are actively fighting this last minute change and need your help. Our first goal is to make as many people as possible aware of this.
Our ANC commissioners will be contacting their counterparts across the city to notify them, asking them to protest to the Zoning Commission that this was done without the input of the ANCs. Please contact your ANC commissioner immediately.
We would like all of the city's neighborhood civic organizations to examine this issue. Many of you don't have meetings in August but if you have a means of contacting your members, we urge you to do so. Contact with your City Councilmember is essential. Ask your City Councilmember to protest this action to the Zoning Commission. If you have a community newspaper, articles and letters are helpful as well.
At a very minimum, this issue deserves public hearings. No community should have its character changed without the residents of that neighborhood having a right to say what should happen.
Ultimately, it may be necessary to file suit to force a delay in passage of the regulation until adequate time can be given to examine the damaging affect that it can have on the city's communities.
Please let us know of your reaction to this and your willingness to join with us in this effort. The residential character of your community is at stake. And we donÂt have much time!
Northeast Neighbors for Responsible Growth
145 11th Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002