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Upper Northwest Welcomes At-large Candidates for April 23 Election

The big political news in the District this week, so far, are the ups-and-downs among the council candidates in the April 23 special election.

Up is Republican Patrick Mara, with the endorsement by The Current Newspapers; down (and out) is Michael Brown, the former councilmember, who quit the contest. This leaves six contenders in the winner-take-all special election to fill the seat vacated by Phil Mendelson when he became chairman. In addition to Mara, the the contenders are Paul Zukerberg, Matthew Frumin, Elissa Silverman, Anita Bonds, all Democrats, and Perry Redd from the Statehood-Green Party.

The Georgetown Dish
The Georgetown Dish

This Thursday evening, the candidates election will convene at Chevy Chase Community Center on Connecticut Avenue for one of the many forums.

At the earlier debate this week in Georgetown, the candidates covered education, parking (particularly the District Government proposal to drastically reduce the parking allowed in new buildings near public transportation), how to spend the current surplus, whether taxes should be reduced and the proposal by candidate Zukerberg to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

In addition to these issues, development is sure to come up, particularly the proposal for a large, glass-walled apartment building at Connecticut Avenue and Military Road by Calvin Cafritz and his wife Jane. Strongly opposed at two packed community meetings, the main point of contention is over whether or not it is “matter-of-right.” If it is, as the city officials contend, it can be built without any community input or discretionary city permit or zoning approval.

The community, however, strongly contends that it is not MOR. In the course of their intense examination of the District’s position the 5333 Connecticut Neighborhood Coalition contends that the proposed building is taller, wider, and denser than allowed by the city regulation. “Developer submissions are taken at face value and the community has not been given opportunity to comment on design, pedestrian safety or traffic plans,” said Richard Graham, head of the Coalition.

Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh has been deeply involved trying to work out a solution to the controversy. This has included convening a packed public meeting with the Cafritzes, their lawyers and architects and top city officials. And last week, she held a hearing of her Committee on Transportation and the Environment as she searched for a mechanism to allow for community involvement, particularly by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, into projects like 5333 Connecticut Avenue. Her questions, along with those of At-large Councilmember David Grosso, were “very insightful and spot-on,” according to Graham.