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Archive for April 30th, 2008|Daily archive page

Two worlds out on Greenfield Street NE; developer, neighbors can find common ground

In City Hall on April 30, 2008 at 12:51 pm

Brian and Christine Wagner have been beside themselves for months, struggling with what they say are brand-new water problems at their home at 818 Greenfield St. NE. They blame the problems on a new office development above and the west of their house.

On Tuesday, though, and just a couple blocks to the east on Greenfield Street NE, plans for another development came to light at a City Planning Commission meeting that left the commission to marvel a bit.

The commission quickly and unanimously approved a change in the city’s future land-use map after hearing that a developer and homeowners agreed to a new commercial development on the northeast corner of Blairs Ferry Road NE and C Avenue NE and an office development next door, both developments of which back up to homes on one side of Greenfield Street NE.

In this instance, the developer, Midwest Property Group Ltd., had met with homeowners on several occasions and had secured from each of them an agreement to allow the commercial and office developments to proceed. Both projects are on land now owned by IBEW Local 1362 Building Corp.

The key to the agreement is the willingness of the developer to keep a stand of timber in place between the developments and the houses, and additionally, to deed over the buffer of timber to the homeowners at no cost to them.

“Important to note” is the way city staff put the meetings between neighbors and developer and the agreement the parties reach about the proposed development.

The agreement particularly stood out on Tuesday at the commission meeting because a second development proposal on the commission agenda — a proposal to build the three-story, 60-unit Tudor Rose condominium building at Johnson Avenue and Wiley Boulevard NW — did not come with any meeting of the minds between neighboring homeowners and the developer.

As for the Wagners at 818 Greenfield St. NE, please see an earlier post:


Condo project on Baumhoefener Nursery grounds takes step ahead; “smart-growth” feature might make project tougher for opponents to stop

In City Hall on April 30, 2008 at 2:12 am

John Baumhoefener III has had a plan to build a three-story, 60-unit condominium project called Tudor Rose for a couple years now on six acres of Baumhoefener Nursery land at Johnson Avenue and Wiley Boulevard NW.

His plan isn’t liked by neighbors next door in single-family homes and hasn’t done well jumping through the City Hall regulatory process. In fact, it was put on hold for a year, waiting the required period before getting a second chance to begin the process anew.

On Tuesday, the City Planning Commission liked the project this time around and gave it an important backing on a 5-2 vote.

There are still some go-rounds, both in front of the commission and the City Council.

But Tuesday’s vote was important.

The commission majority agreed with Baumhoefener III’s request to change the city’s future land-use map from low-density residential to medium-density residential for the nursery site. The change will allow the condominium project, which would not have been permitted in the existing designation.

The City Council must agree, and then future debates and votes will deal with zoning and the site plan for the site.

Commission member Nancy Evans on Tuesday said the issue of land-use on the Baumhoefener property wasn’t even a close call.

The site, Evans noted, sits at the intersection of two busy arterial streets on which it was hard to imagine any developer would ever build single-family homes. The site didn’t belong in a land-use category, low-density residential, in which no one could build housing, she said.

Commissioners Allan Thoms and Scott Fiauf made the same point.

The commission unanimously turned down a similar request for the project in 2006, and one opposing neighbor, Todd Kunstorf, 4204 Roxbury Dr. NW, asked the commission on Tuesday why it would change its mind now.

Commission member Thoms noted that the developer had changed a couple aspects of the proposal, adding a wider buffering strip between the project and neighbors and limiting access to the site off Wiley Boulevard NW near a school.

Commissioner member Evans also pointed to the city’s new use of a “smart-growth scorecard,” which is designed to assess the value of a project to the community.

One of the developer’s engineers, Allen Witt, of Hall & Hall Engineers, argued that the Tudor Rose project was a perfect example of “infill development” — it’s on a bus route, near a fire station, a walking trail and retail stores, and is not fueling urban sprawl — which helps a project score well on the scorecard.

Neighbors have opposed the Tudor Rose project since they first learned of it in June 2006, and at one point, presented a petition in opposition with more than 200 signatures. Neighbors spoke out against the project again Tuesday, in part, saying that they bought their homes trusting in the city’s future land-use map, which showed the future use of the Baumhoefener property as low-density residential.

One neighbor, Steve DeFord, 4313 Roxbury Dr. NW, called the move to change the land-use map “spot zoning,” and he cautioned residents elsewhere to watch out if they, too, have placed their “trust” in the land-use map.

Commissioner Evans said there are times and places where the city’s land-use map should change, and the intersection of two busy streets is one of those, she said.

If the Tudor Rose project is built, the Tudor-style home on the six acres is to be renovated and used by those buying the condominiums as a meeting place.