Photo by The Georgetown Dish
Peter Gosselin (center) argues against the ANC vote, with Richard Graham and Wanda Reit as his side
Peter Gosselin (center) argues against the ANC vote, with Richard Graham and Wanda Reit as his side

The Chevy Chase ANC 3/4G in the Chevy Chase Community Center (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) The Chevy Chase ANC 3/4G in the Chevy Chase Community Center

A sharply divided Chevy Chase Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3/4G voted on Tuesday to accept the changes to the building planned by Calvin Cafritz Enterprises for 5333 Connecticut Avenue (at Military Road) and abandon its support for the appeal being pursued by the 5333 Connecticut Neighborhood Coalition against the permits issued by the DC Government.  The vote came in the face of a room-full of residents who pleaded with passion and loud applause for the ANC to postpone any action to allow for full ANC and community discussion of the agreement.

The agreement was negotiated by three commissioners, Henry Griffin, Randy Speck and Chair Jim McCarthy and supported by David Engel.  It includes reduced glass surface area and more masonry in the building; a two-foot height reduction and two less residential units; a circular driveway on Connecticut Avenue; about 40 more parking spaces and no Residential Parking Permits; making the building green with planters, a green-roof garage, slowed stormwater runoff, separate utility metering and low-flow plumbing; “more efficient unit layouts with less wasted space and lower energy usage;” reduced light from the building at night with built-in shades and “reasonable effort” to encourage their use.

The audience at the meeting on 5333 (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) The audience at the meeting on 5333

The Coalition leaders argued that they felt they had been working with the ANC and negotiating together with Whayne Quin, the Cafritz lawyer, including signing a confidentiality agreements. “We thought there was no daylight between us,” said Linda Komes a member of the Coalition.  Added George Gaines, a Coalition leader: “Not only was the Neighborhood Coalition kept completely in the dark about this, but even the other members of the ANC had not been informed.”

The Coalition was therefore taken by surprise last Thursday when Commissioners Griffen, Speck and McCarthy presented the agreement to the Coalition. “We were shocked and surprised,” said Komes who reiterated her call for the ANC to “continue to work with us” and not vote.

The pro-agreement commissioners said they had negotiated over hundreds of hours with Quin to get the best deal possible, given their limited power, the already-issued city permits (allowing construction to start) and the unlikelihood of success of the Coalition’s appeals to the Board of Zoning Adjustment and possibly the courts.  “I’m concerned that construction could start very soon and perhaps jeopardize the agreement we got,” said Speck.  McCarthy added that we had to “strike when we had the leverage.”

Drawing showing the changes in the agreement approved by the ANC (Photo by: Cafritz) Drawing showing the changes in the agreement approved by the ANC

 

In response, Commissioner Carolyn Cook asked her colleagues to “let us all go home and digest [the agreement] and think it though” adding rhetorically to loud applause, “are we all going turn into pumpkins” if we don’t approve this?"  “What is wrong with standing with the people?”

Cook was joined by Commissioners Rebecca Maydak in voting against the agreement, with Commissioner Gary Thompson abstaining (although he had earlier voted to postpone the vote).

After the vote, former Commissioner Robert Gordon wondered why Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh was not there to support the community and the Coalition.  “We expected her to help and support us [to ask the ANC] to postpone any decision…if she had been here she might have turned the tide” for us.

Gaines focused on Quin’s role.  “From the beginning Quin was seeking to split the ANC from the Coalition in hopes that it would discourage the Coalition from proceeding with our appeals,” he said. “We are not, and will not be, discouraged from appealing…because the Cafritz building, as documented by the plans used to get the permits, is illegal and our appeals will prove it.”

The Board of Zoning Adjustment hearing is scheduled for September 24.

Elizabeth Lenik joins the unanumous voices against the vote (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Elizabeth Lenik joins the unanumous voices against the vote

6 Comments For This Article

Richard L

I have been involved in the DC area development arena for 26 years. One thing you can count on is this. In most cases thise handful of residents so adamently opposed to real estate developments rarely reflect the majority. A majority of residents ib this case, as in others, usually represent a minority of the local voice. However, they are always the loudest and most vocal and therefore always get more press and notice. Thise in the silent majority rarely get involved and usually support new development. Most politicians understand this. That's why we should always remember to balance the squeeky wheel with the realization that if and when you start polling the silent majority you will usually find overwhelming support for smart new real estate developments. These ANC groups become way too focused on details most area residents view as neutral development aspects. ANC's while neccesary can easily get out of control and CREATE problems. It's timw to reign I. The overall ANC impact and find a way to hear the silent majority voice if reason.

DC for Reasonable Development

It would seem these residents, as well as one point the ANC, are quite conerned about the legality of the proposed project within the confines of the construction codes and zoning codes. The ANC and community sent letters requesting clarification and got bogus responses. The ANC Commissioners bent to the whim of Quin and felt the noise last night. Despite what half the ANC might have chosen to do last night, the fact remains that the City ought to live up to their own rules and be able to explain why or why they can't. This hasn't happened and really should!

NIMBYfighter

I don't understand what the Coalition is unhappy about. They haven't had their leverage diminished one bit. This is a by-right development. The Coalition had zero leverage the day the project was announced, and they have the same amount of leverage today. Good luck with that BZA hearing!

Anonymous

Does anyone else find irony that these same residents rejected historic designation for their neighborhood yet act as if they have the right to dictate terms on a matter of right proposal?

ChevyChaser

Richard L: You are entirely wrong. In fact, you don't even understand the various players and what they are pulling for. I am not an immediate neighbor of 5333 Connecticut Avenue, but I live in Chevy Chase, D.C., and everyone I know in the community opposes the Cafritz design and the process by which permitting was recently gained. We don't oppose an apartment building going up; we are merely trying to get the developer to honor the design compromises upon which Cafritz won concessions from Zoning 20 years ago.

ChevyChaser

Ah, the famous "by right" argument. That's what the development folks always claim, then it turns out that the city didn't even adhere to its own regulations in granting the permit. The developer and elected officials even claim the development of Walmart at Skyland was MOR, when in fact the mayor spent millions of public dollars to acquire the property under the guise of eminent domain so the developer would have a clean slate. The only reason the Coalition or other groups of citizens have no leverage is because the planning and zoning mechanism in this city is broken and corrupt. Some people care about that and are fighting for change.