ANC Round Up: Demolition By Neglect


The ANC met for its October session last night. Here are some of the bigger items they discussed:

Demolition By Neglect Reaches it Inevitable Conclusion

The agenda was marked by a solemn item. The new owner of 3324 Dent Place has filed a raze request with the city. Such requests are rare in Georgetown, and even more rarely granted.

The house in question can be seen above in slightly better days. It is a wood frame house and likely dates from the mid 1800s. It can be seen in this old map from 1903. Even as late as then, that block of Dent was home to only a couple of other houses (also, it was called S St., not Dent).

The house’s more recent history was retold by Chairman Ron Lewis last night. In 1978, the owner of the house requested a raze permit. The Old Georgetown Board denied it. For whatever reason (perhaps out of spite) the house was left to rot for decades. As the neighbors complained last night, the property became a fetid eyesore attracting vermin and mosquitoes. One resident complained that when she lived there 15 years ago, she couldn’t believe the house was in such poor shape. And she mentioned that when she returned to the neighborhood after living abroad all those years, she was shocked to see it had only gotten worse.

Up to a little over a year ago this was a classic case of demolition by neglect. This is the situation whereby an owner of a historically protected building allows the building to fall into such disrepair that the city will be forced to grant a raze permit. The proper response to such a tactic is to jack up the property taxes and deny a raze permit. Unfortunately, in this situation Mother Nature had her say. During Hurricane Irene a large silver maple fell squarely on the house. It is now unsalvageable.

Ron Lewis recognized the difficulty of the situation. Allowing a homeowner to tear down a century-and-a-half year old house is irrevocable. But the neighbors who had lived with the eyesore for too long. It is a shame that such a historic structure cannot be saved, but a raze permit must be issued.

Lewis added a clause to the motion supporting the raze permit that requested that the new owner of the building not be permitted to use this raze as an opportunity to build a much larger house. It’s a small gesture in the face of a bad situation all around.

Jackson Art Center

As GM mentioned last week, the Jackson Art Center was on the agenda last night because its future at the historic school is in jeopardy. As explained further at the meeting, the arts center’s fifteen year lease with the city ends next summer. The artists were in the process of negotiating a 5 year extension when the city received an unsolicited bid for the property from an undisclosed developer.

The immediate impact of the bid was to delay the lease negotiations. After the city determined that a disposition process for the building would take a while, they came back to the artists with a three year lease extension. While this would be better than nothing, it still would leave the center in a suspended state of uncertainty.

The center came to the ANC to ask for its support. It was readily given. The commission passed a resolution calling for the city to grant the center a five year lease. Additionally, it requested that if the city does move to sell the property that arts be the designated use.

Hopefully the city will grant the center a long lease. The benefit of that would be that it would open the door to the rehabilitation of the building’s windows. Apparently the lease agreement allows the center to escrow 80% of its rent to be used for improvements. This escrow account has now grown to half a million dollars. With a lease in place, hopefully those funds can finally be spent.

Odds and Ends

Here are a couple other items GM was around long enough to catch:

  • An anonymous call about a suspicious car in Burleith lead to a car chase that ended in a crash at Wisconsin and Q. The passengers were arrested and the contents of the car were tied to at least three separate burglaries in and around Georgetown.
  • After many years of the ANC requesting a left turn lane on 35th and Reservoir, the city changed the light cycle to have a leading left turn arrow. This wasn’t what the neighbors were requesting, but it addressed the problem. But now the city painted a left turn arrow after all, which could result it up to 15 parking spaces being removed. Luckily the ANC talked the city down to just a few spots.

1 Comment

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One response to “ANC Round Up: Demolition By Neglect

  1. Jacques

    The problem with the “solution” at 35th and R is that if you have more than 2-3 northbound cars in the left-turn lane, southbound vehicles can’t make it through without either waiting for the northbound cars to clear that space or squeezing through and potentially hitting parked cars.

    While the leading left turn alleviates some of the pressure, it’s still an issue for cars turning off of Reservoir onto southbound 35th.

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