The Coming Zoning Fight

Next Monday, CAG will hold its November meeting and the topic of the night will be zoning. While this topic sounds a bit dry at first, it is an incredibly important topic for the future of Georgetown and the city at large.

Right now the Office of Planning is engaged in a multi-year project to completely revamp the District’s zoning code. Many changes are needed to modernize the code and bring it in line with modern expectations.

The Office of Planning is also using this process to set out a direction for how the city will grow over the next fifty years or so. Central to that vision is the need to add many more residents without adding many more cars. To achieve that goal, among other things, the revised zoning code will encourage higher density of residential units and facilitate more mixed use of residential buildings.

How Georgetown fits into that vision is where the fight will be. The Office of Planning is expected to proposed regulations that apply to all corners of the city immediately upon adoption. An eventual carve out from the general rules for Georgetown is expected though. So what should that carve out look like? What happens in the meantime? Can or should Georgetown turn its back on future of the city’s zoning plan? These questions and many more will have to be answered.

To start the discussion, CAG has invited a “pro” and a “con” to debate the merits of the Office of Planning’s project. Nancy MacWood of Cleveland Park will represent the anti-vote while Travis Parker of the Office of Planning will represent the pro-argument. The debate will be moderated by CAG’s lawyer Richard Hines (who, by the way, also is on the anti-side).

If it’s not obvious from most of GM’s writings, GM is on the pro side. Adding density doesn’t have to mean adding cars if we do it right.  Corner stores are intrinsic to Georgetown’s history yet the zoning regulations of the last half century or so have killed off most of them. With smart regulations we can encourage them to come back without allowing more Philly Pizzas. The Historic Preservation Review Board and the Old Georgetown Board already act as protectors of Georgetown’s historic character. Allowing looser zoning regulations underneath those strong protections can help Georgetown achieve some of that vision of a 21st century city without losing its historic character.

Whether you agree or disagree with GM, please come and have your voice heard at the CAG meeting next Monday night at the Letelier Theater (you don’t have to be a member of CAG to attend, it’s open to the public). Reception starts at 7:00, the meeting begins at 7:30.


Filed under Zoning

3 responses to “The Coming Zoning Fight

  1. Ken Archer

    You’ve summed up the challenge nicely. How do we absorb many more residents in the future without adding many more cars?

    The Anti strategy is to resist the growth in residents by, for example, not allowing Georgetowners to rent out part of their homes. But we fit 50% more people into our neighborhood 50 years ago.

    The question is not whether we will allow greater density, but how to manage it.

  2. David

    Not sure I understand the pro/con argument very clearly, however anything we can do to promote neighboorhood stores within the residential areas I am for.

    One of the nicest amenities to living in Georgetown are the quaint local commercial shops tucked away in the neighboorhood. Anything to allow the Sara’s Market, Griffin Market, Scheele’s, and yes even the 7-11 and Saxbys etc to thrive I am for. Selfishly, I would love to see a coffee shop for the East Villagers (P St anyone?) Honestly the more immediate places to go and shop, the less reliance on the car as well.

  3. Pingback: Don’t Forget: CAG Meeting Tonight on Zoning «

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