BZA Delays Decision on Call Your Mother

The Board of Zoning Adjustment met and considered again the variance application for Call Your Mother. This was a follow up hearing from an initial hearing in October. After some legalistic discussion, the BZA strongly encouraged the applicant to explore a slightly different approach and is scheduled to consider that alternative next Wednesday.

The application as it stood yesterday was for a use variance. As GM explained in the link above, they need to do this because the building is zoned residential (notwithstanding the fact it literally has never been used exclusively for residential purposes).  Variances are tough to obtain since the burden is on the applicant to show, essentially, how they are uniquely burdened by the application of the relevant zone. This is compared with special exceptions, which can be granted simply so long as it wouldn’t unduly burden the neighbors.

At the hearing yesterday, the board heard another round of witnesses both for and against the application. However, the board appeared to have not really gleaned anything from these testimonies that they didn’t get from the October hearing. Reading the body language and tone of the board, it appears as if they would like to grant the variance, but they have a little heartburn about it. (You can watch the hearing for yourself here.)

Before granting the variance, the board encouraged the applicant to explore whether the application wouldn’t be eligible under the corner store rules. In short, under the 2012 zoning rewrite, corner stores can be used for commercial purposes in certain residential zones, including here. In Georgetown, corner stores do not qualify for this rule if they are within 750 feet of a commercially zoned property. In this case, the Call Your Mother location would be within 750 feet of Wisemiller’s, which is actually zoned commercially. The BZA wants the applicant to explore whether an exception to this rule would be available instead of a basic use variance. They’ll decide next week.

GM was involved in the zoning rewrite. And he was always under the understanding that the purpose of the 750 foot rule was to prevent the bleeding of commercial off of Wisconsin Ave and M St. into the residential blocks. It was never meant to limit corner stores who just happened to be within a couple blocks of the two tiny slivers of commercial zoning tucked into the neighborhood (on top of the Wisemiller block, the 7/11 block on P St. is also commercially zoned).

It would be particularly ridiculous if the presence of the 35th St. commercial zone prevents Call Your Mother from opening. As GM described, it was a mistake to treat the 34th and 35th St. commercial strips differently. Both of them should have been included in the commercial zone. We shouldn’t compound that mistake now by preventing the corner store rule from being used exactly as it was intended to be used.

Again, it’s GM impression that the BZA wants to approve this application. And if this corner store provision isn’t available, they may still just grant the use variance. It’s all so ridiculous, to be honest.

6 Comments

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6 responses to “BZA Delays Decision on Call Your Mother

  1. How has Saxby’s avoided this? They toast your bagel for you and have lines that extend well out the door, which to my understanding are the two issues that form the basis of the opposition?

  2. Topher

    I don’t know Saxby’s specific history. But since it was Sugar’s before it was Saxby’s, they could continue the non-conforming use. And even if it was determined that the new use was different enough from the earlier use, under the pre-2012 rules, you could make that change via special exception, which is much more freely granted.

  3. Pingback: Call Your Mother Decision Delayed Till January | The Georgetown Metropolitan

  4. The two issues forming the basis of opposition are not “toasting” and “lines”. The basis of the opposition is that the area is zoned residential with limited retail and this situation does not meet the burden of proving “exceptional and undue hardship” to the owner in the absence of an exception and no “substantial detriment to the public good” as a result of granting the exception. There are many retail establishments that would love that space that are not food prep businesses, so no undue hardship. There would be substantial detriment to adjacent property owners in the form of increased rodent activity, increased traffic and parking issues, increased safety issues, etc. One need only look at the disaster outside Georgetown Cupcake to see that. Lines that bleed into the street on 33d and constant garbage along 33d in off hours. People wandering up as far as P street with cupcake boxes in their hands occupying parking meant for residents. The area already has a substantial rodent problem. We do not need another food source. Let them open on Wisconsin or M St, where zoning, traffic etc. is set up for it. That would be bad enough if they have a following similar to GTown Cupcake. This is not an issue of whether they can open a store in Georgetown. It’s about whether they can burden a residential area with commercial activity.

  5. OK nimby.

    Parking is not for residents, btw. Parking is for the public. When you buy a home in Georgetown you do not have any rights to parking over anybody else with a vehicle. You might want Georgetown parking to be dedicated for you, but that is not how it works. Go buy a house in the suburbs with a driveway or a garage if you want parking that you have rights to over others.

    Safety issues? Seriously? Rodent activity? Really? All the arguments of a grasping nimby whose real reasons of opposition cannot be stated because they would be exposed as selfish. I couldn’t care less about bagels, but I hate NIMBYs who put their selfish interests over the betterment of the public good. People want this bagel shop. These arguments against it are pathetic.

  6. You are obviously not a property owner who understands the purpose of zoning regulations and their effect on property values. Nor the concept of reliance. But, please, feel free to attach whatever pejorative to me that you would like. That won’t change the fact that the rules prohibit it and they haven’t met their burden of proof. CYM is being disingenuous, BTW. They want this location because they do not have to pay GTown commercial rent for it but can nevertheless draw a commercial crowd because of their popularity. The result: commercial activity in an area not designed to accommodate it. CYM is attempting to arbitrage that to their benefit. If that’s not disingenuous, I don’t know what is. But, you can “OK, Boomer” me or OK NIMBY” me, if you like. Or whatever other dismissive, clever pejorative you would resort to. But, what you describe dismissively as selfish is nothing more than the genuine concern of a property owner who purchased (and priced) their house in reliance on existing zoning and use rules. Those rules do exist, in part, to support property values, which is in part self interested I suppose. But, there is also a societal interest i the maintenance of property value. We are all self interested. That does not make us selfish. Particularly when there is inequity that is being perpetrated. And, while you are correct that parking is public, there should be no basis for an expectation that it would shoulder a commercial burden in a residentially zoned area. That’s unfair.

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