DC Council Votes to Move Comprehensive Plan Forward

by Nena Perry-Brown

Over a year since the issue was last debated for 13 hours in the Wilson Building, an edited Comprehensive Plan Framework for DC took its first step toward potential implementation on Tuesday.

The DC Council unanimously voted to move forward with the “Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2019”, a bill which puts forth an amended version of the Framework Element of the Comp Plan. The Comp Plan is a document intended to guide how the city will develop and grow, and while it is supposed to be amended every few years anyway, the most recent effort has taken on additional significance following a recent spate of development appeals which have suppressed or stopped construction of thousands of residential units.

Council Chair Phil Mendelson's office released a draft of the edited Element last week, and the changes to the document primarily tweaked the semantics, cleaned up inconsistencies, or rewrote lengthy phrases to reflect how the city has changed since the Comp Plan was last updated in 2006. After the draft's release, Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie added language to the draft affirming the need to ensure equitable growth and racial justice. Once the Framework Element is amended and passed, the Office of Planning (OP) will begin submitting updates to the remainder of the Comp Plan, at which time the public will have an opportunity to weigh in on those changes. 

Before Tuesday's vote, several councilmembers asked questions and offered comments and amendments. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau put forth two amendments, the first of which was accepted as a friendly amendment requesting the Office of Planning give the council guidance on land use as it pertains to single-family zoning prior to submitting the Land Use Element for council review. Nadeau cited recent conversations nationwide calling out the disparate and discriminatory impacts of exclusionary (single-family detached) zoning.

Her second amendment proposed to add "prevent displacement" to the list of public benefits which could be claimed in planned unit development applications; Mendelson rejected the amendment as being too detailed and extensive for the Framework Element, and that it needed to be tailored further before consideration. Nadeau reluctantly agreed to withdraw the amendment, albeit with the caveat that she would work to get Mendelson's support by the second reading of the plan.

Councilmember Elissa Silverman posited that the city should look into implementing land value recapture in the future, whereby the city shares in the profits from increased property values resulting from investment of public dollars. Mendelson's reply was receptive despite being prefaced with the revelation that OP requested language referencing a similar concept be removed from the Element due to legal concerns.

Ultimately, the Council unanimously moved the bill on first reading. The bill will go to a second reading and vote in September.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dc-council-comp-plan-vote-comes-with-cancelled-vacations/15638

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