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ANC Seeks Reversal of Improper Work

By Brady HoltCurrent Staff Writer

The owner of 3107 Dumbarton St. should expediently undo renovations to the 1898 home that were carried out without permits, the Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission said Monday.

Any alterations visible from the street are governed by the Old Georgetown Board, which oversees the neighborhood’s federally protected historic district. The board hadn’t approved permit applications for the Dumbarton project, which included cladding the brick building in synthetic stucco, altering and raising its roof, removing a chimney, replacing the windows and entrance, and creating new window openings. The city issued a stop-work order and a $10,000 fine in January.

Any resident who has carried out renovations in the Georgetown Historic District is likely familiar with the scrutiny that the board, part of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, pays to details as minute as the type of window frame.

The property owner is now asking the board to retroactively authorize the changes and to allow the half-completed work to be finished. Residents and commissioners at Monday’s meeting expressed disgust at the idea.

“It’s absolutely horrendous,” said commissioner Jeff Jones. “What is this applicant thinking by even trying to propose this, taking our time and the neighbors’ time up by taking us through this? Why don’t they just stop this silliness?”

“I think they’re looking for direction from the Old Georgetown Board,” replied Georgetown architect Rich Markus, who was hired by the owner after the stop-work order was issued.

“Well, they’re going to get a lot of direction,” said Jones.

Tom Luebke, secretary to the Fine Arts Commission, told The Current in January that at least some of the alterations were unambiguously incompatible with the historic district. The Old Georgetown Board is scheduled to review the case tomorrow and has ordered property owners to undo changes carried out without permits. “This is one of the most egregious violations of process we’ve seen in a long time,” Luebke said at the time.

Markus said the owner — Alla Bakhtina of Chevy Chase, Md. — hadn’t entirely ignored the law. “It was actually in the permit process, with a different architect and different people, and at one point they started construction without a permit in hand,” he said.

Bakhtina has said previously that the project began as emergency repair work brought about by a burst pipe, unstable brickwork and shoddy electrical equipment. But commissioners and residents took issue with the project as much as the process.

“ANC 2E believes the extent of the unpermitted work severely damages the historic character of this important colonial revival property,” the commission’s resolution states. “These egregious and severely damaging proposed changes to the historic character of 3107 Dumbarton, NW are completely void of any respect toward the Georgetown Historic District.”

Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans also addressed the issue at the commission meeting. “You cannot, without a building permit, anywhere in this city — especially in Georgetown — put up stucco and get away with it,” he said. “It’s just an activity that cannot take place.”

Evans said at the meeting that he will ask the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which governs building permits, to order 3107 Dumbarton restored to its previous condition. His spokesperson, Tom Lipinsky, told The Current yesterday that Evans plans to send a letter this week.

This article appears in the May 6 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.