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Is a New Corner Store Coming to Your Neighborhood?

by Nena Perry-Brown

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Farah’s Le Petite Grocery and Deli in Georgetown. Google Street View.

The DC Zoning Commission unanimously approved the city’s long-debated zoning changes two weeks ago, and UrbanTurf recently started taking a closer look at the changes that are of most interest to our readership. We continue our exploration of these changes today with a look at the revised regulations regarding corner stores.

While corner stores have historically been built into communities and scattered throughout the city, zoning regulations have grown increasingly prohibitive and discouraging for this type of establishment.

The regulations that will go into effect in September will allow new corner stores, but as the name implies, the new stores must be located on the corner of two intersecting streets. Furthermore, the establishments will need to be at least 500 feet from nearby commercial zones, so as not to take away business in these areas. While new stores will be allowed in R-3 and R-4 zones, they will continue to be prohibited in lower-density R-1 and R-2 neighborhoods, areas dominated by single-family detached homes.

Allowable uses for a corner store will include general retail, a food store, or an establishment with an art focus. Corner grocery stores which sell fresh perishables and other general foodstuffs will be allowed by-right, but cooking will not be allowed on-site. Alcohol cannot be consumed on the premises, but up to 15 percent of the store’s floor area can be used for sale of packaged beer and wine with a Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA)-approved exception. The ground floor of the store cannot exceed 1,200 square feet, and use of the cellar level is allowed. The size restriction is aimed at encouraging mom-and-pop shops, rather than nationwide chains, which typically need a larger footprint.

In order to preserve the neighborhood’s residential character, most new non-grocery corner stores would require a BZA special exception. This would also ensure that one community doesn’t have a large concentration of corner stores. Many of the store’s logistical concerns, like hours of operation, garbage collection, appearance, and number of employees will also fall under BZA’s purview.

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See other articles related to: zoning code, zoning changes, zoning, corner stores dc, corner stores

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/zoning_changes_in_depth_corner_stores/10821

2 Comments

  1. Andrea Rosen said at 2:50 pm on Monday February 1, 2016:

    As a former resident of NYC, I am a fan of corner stores. There is a cherished longtime corner store in Chevy Chase, DC, Broadbranch Market, that I patronize frequently for groceries to some extent, but primarily for its prepared foods. However the ZRR, in prohibiting prepared food, will make it a challenge financially, I think, for food stores to survive as corner stores in residential neighborhoods. I wonder how serious OP was about bringing such amenities to neighborhoods given this prohibition.

    As far as the BZA weighing in on uses that are out of character with a neighborhood, I wouldn’t put much stock in that protection.  I’ve never known the BZA to take any interest in safeguarding neighborhood character (unless it’s Georgetown, perhaps).

  1. coffeexdrinker said at 4:13 pm on Wednesday February 3, 2016:

    What about the R5 zones? I am moving to a R5A zone and would love if there were more corner stores…

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