A PUD Appeal (of Sorts) in Forest Hills

by Nena Perry-Brown

Aerial rendering of previously proposed PUD at former Polish ambassador's residence.

The threat of appeal has delayed and deterred many planned-unit developments (PUD) in the District in recent years, although typically these appeals are associated with projects proposing hundreds of housing units in a construction-heavy corridor. However, a new appeal may derail a much smaller project proposed in an area of the city where many would say development is far too rare.

A year ago, Soapstone Valley Ventures applied for a PUD for the site of the former Polish ambassador's residence at 3101 Albemarle Street NW (map) in Forest Hills. The proposal followed the developer successfully seeking historic landmark status for the ambassador's residence and called for restoring the landmarked building as a residence and constructing an additional single-family home and five rowhouses around a shared courtyard on the surrounding acre. 

Instead, the developer nixed the above plans and opted to proceed with a by-right development in the face of neighborhood opposition, a tactic which has become more popular when PUDs will likely or are actually being appealed. The developer filed a motion to withdraw the PUD application at the end of October and sought subdivision of the site into three lots behind the ambassador's residence, enabling them to potentially construct three detached houses fronting 32nd and Appleton Streets. Now, those plans face appeal.

A group of neighbors who live within 200 feet of the property has filed an application with the Board of Zoning Adjustment to appeal the underlying premise behind the site being subdivided and a building permit for a detached house on one of the lots being approved.

The Zoning Administrator (ZA) approved subdivision in June, an action which required no public hearing. The appellants argue that not only were they not informed of these plans, but that the subdivision approval itself was based on faulty calculations of the required setbacks and lot line restrictions.

"The ZA improperly approved a gerrymandered lot that does not comply with zoning requirements, resulting in increased density," the application asserts. "The increased density on Appleton Street will likely reduce light to nearby residences, increase traffic, exacerbate parking issues, and adversely affect the privacy some of the Appellants. Moreover, views of the landmarked property will be blocked or diminished, as will the general character of the neighborhood."

A hearing for the appeal has not yet been scheduled.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/a-pud-appeal-of-sorts-in-forest-hills/14769

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