Posted tagged ‘DCRA’

723 Morton Street to be Razed

August 3, 2017

723 Morton Street, NW

In February 2016, DCRA issued a raze order for 723 Morton Street noting that the structure was unsafe to inhabit and a danger to public safety. Shortly thereafter, the owners filed a case with the Office of Administrative Hearings and secured a Temporary Restraining Order from the D.C. Superior Court which forbidding DCRA from razing the structure.

In mid-July, the D.C. Superior Court lifted the Stay on the Order to Raze the Structure at 723 Morton Street, N.W. clearing the way for the structure to be razed. Neighbors may have noticed some activity on the site as the preparation for razing the structure has begun.

The property has been a source of concern among neighbors for roughly a decade. The building was constructed as a new eight-unit apartment building without permits for anything beyond a foundation — and does not conform to the RF-1 zone within which it is located. It also exceeds its allowable height. Mayor Fenty, during one of his walks through the neighborhood ordered the building razed during his administration, however DCRA at that time decided to work with the property owner to “bring the property into compliance.” For this to happen, the building would have to be converted into a two-unit building.

During the ensuing years, work has progressed on the building off and on, with additional stop work orders and concerns about the structure’s impact on the neighbors. There was also continued concern that the building would not end up as two units, but rather as an 8-unit apartment building without going through the required community and zoning processes.

With DCRA getting the green light to raze the  structure, it seems that this longstanding issue may be coming to an end.

 

Commissioner Boese Testifies Before Council for Improved DCRA

March 8, 2016

Boese DCRA Feb 29 2016

On February 29, 2016, Commissioner Boese testified before the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs, focusing his testimony on the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and its need for improvement. While he acknowledged some positive changes within the department over the past year, there is still much room for improvement. Through his engagement with DCRA over the past year, he has discovered wrongly issued building permits and construction that does not match the plans reviewed in the permitting process among other problems.

Chief among the improvements he requested are:

  • The ability to accurately review building plans, issued building permits, and measure building heights;
  • To have all relevant building permits and documents publicly and freely available online, as the D.C. Code has required for more than 10 years;
  • The ability to maintain a history of Stop Work Orders and the corrective actions taken to remove the Stop Work Orders; and,
  • The strict adherence of zoning regulations.

During the hearing, Councilmember Orange asserted that while DCRA can still improve, he didn’t believe that DCRA was as broken or failing to function as some testifying had stated. He referenced the strong development of the District and the fact that DCRA issues over 35,000 building permits a year — using this as an indicator that DCRA is doing something right. Boese countered that a strong real estate market and the resulting increase in development are the cause of the increase in the number of building permits issued — but that this has no relationship to how well DCRA is operating. During the hearing Councilmember Orange often intertwined the issue of DCRA operations and the District’s revitalization and population growth — along with what he felt was his role in it — ultimately clouding the discussion.

You can watch the entire hearing here. Commissioner Boese’s testimony can be found between 03:11:48 and 03:52:42.

DCRA Considers 723 Morton Street Unsafe, Orders It Razed

February 16, 2016

723 Morton Street(723 Morton Street, NW.)

723 Morton StreetLate last week, DCRA posted notice at 723 Morton Street noting that the structure was unsafe to inhabit and a danger to public safety. The owner of the property has been ordered to raze the building within three calendar days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) or appeal the order.

The property has been a source of concern among neighbors for roughly a decade. The building was constructed as a new eight-unit apartment building without permits for anything beyond a foundation — and does not conform to the R-4 zone within which it is located. It also exceeds its allowable height. Mayor Fenty, during one of his walks through the neighborhood ordered the building razed during his administration, however DCRA at that time decided to work with the property owner to “bring the property into compliance.” For this to happen, the building would have to be converted into a two-unit building.

During the ensuing years, work has progressed on the building off and on, with additional stop work orders and concerns about the structure’s impact on the neighbors. There was also continued concern that the building would not end up as two units, but rather as an 8-unit apartment building without going through the community and zoning process required.

In reading the posted raze notice, a host of issues are listed — among them an inadequate firewall, deficient stairwells and exists, considered to be structurally unsound and at risk of collapse, and seven gas lines & eight mechanical units though only being approved for two units.

The raze notice is below for those interested in reading in detail.

723 Morton Street

723 Morton Street

Notes from Ward 1 Town Hall Meeting and Its Focus on DCRA

February 27, 2015

Orange Nadeau Town Hall(Councilmembers Orange and Nadeau conferring before the meeting began)

On Thursday, February 26, Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau and Vincent Orange hosted a Ward 1 town hall meeting for community members to ask questions related to their oversight role on the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The agencies present at the town hall were Employment Services, the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), the Public Service Commission, The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), and the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD). There were roughly 60 people in attendance at the start of the meeting, including Councilmember staff and ANC commissioners.

After opening remarks, Councilmember Nadeau brought the meeting to order. Questions had to be submitted in writing, allowing like questions to be grouped together. No questions were submitted for Employment Services, the Public Service Committee, or the Department of Small and Local Business Development. Residents were primarily interested in DCRA and ABRA.

The questions for DCRA were first — and none of them were positive. Repeatedly residents and ANC Commissioners spoke about DCRA’s unresponsiveness and failure to address issues. ANC 1A06 Commissioner Patrick Flynn stated that he had never had a positive experience with DCRA, whether dealing with them as a resident, small business owner, or Commissioner. He continued by sharing an experience with a problem property in his community which had squatters living in it and frequent calls for service — a situation that in the end resulted in MPD taking charge after the property was set on fire. ANC 1C05 Commissioner Alan Gambrell asked for clarification on how building permits were issued for additions larger than allowed based on square footage requirements, and more importantly for justification on how the square footage was measured and formerly measured areas became areas not measured when calculating additions.

In every instance, DCRA’s response to the community was wanting. Whether responding to the resident who’s house was damaged by the development next door, or the gentlemen wanting to know what protections and assistance exist for residents when their building contractors don’t deliver on the project they’ve been hired to do, DCRA was unable to satisfactorily respond to a single question without redirecting to a phone number or asking the person to stay after the meeting for a personal conversation.

After questions were finished for DCRA, easily half of those in attendance left the meeting. Much less time was devoted to ABRA, and the questions that were asked were more of the type of residents seeking to know more about a process. Unlike the experience with DCRA, ABRA Director Fred Moosally answered questions well and was clearly knowledgeable of his agency and its operations. One of the more interesting questions that was asked of ABRA was why citizens returning to the community after serving a sentence were banned  from applying for a liquor license for 10 years. The concern was that 10 years was excessive, which Director Moosally stated could be revisited to see if the duration was still deemed appropriate to the original concern. Another interesting question was asked by Denis James of the Kalorama Citizens’ Association. James questioned the appropriateness of MPD officers serving on Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), and how that association may bias the ABRA Board  during a hearing.

Overall, the general impression from the meeting is that DCRA has lost the community’s confidence. I also doubt that there will be any concrete improvements that come out of the meeting … but then again, only time will tell.

Town Hall Meeting on Thursday Focusing on DCRA and ABRA

February 23, 2015

Do you have any questions you’d like to ask directly to the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and the DC Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA)? If so, then Thursday, February 26th is a good opportunity. Councilmembers Nadeau and Orange are hosting a town hall meeting to do just that at the Reeves Municipal Center.

Details from their official announcment below:

Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau invites you to a Town Hall meeting with Councilmember Vincent Orange, Chair of the Council’s Business Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee (BCRA), to discuss issues before the committee.

What: Ward 1 Town Hall on Business and Consumer Regulatory Affairs with Councilmember Vincent Orange and Councilmember Brianne Nadeau
When: February 26, 2014 from 6:30pm-8:00pm
Where: Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center (2000 14th Street NW)

Attendees will be invited to submit questions for representatives on hand from both the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and DC Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. They will cover issues such as permits, inspections, alcohol licensing, noise abatement, landlord violations and construction.

In addition, the town hall meeting will focus on other matters that are before the committee such as wage theft, employment, and the Certified Business Enterprise program.

DCRA Town Hall

DCRA Reviewing Sweet Mango Building Permit History

October 17, 2012

If you’ve been waiting for Sweet Mango to reopen it looks like you’ll have to wait a little bit longer.

Due to resident concerns about unpermitted construction at Sweet Mango over the years, DCRA construction inspections supervisor Garret Whitescarver was in attendance at the monthly ANC 4C08 meeting hosted by Commissioner Timothy Jones. Renewed interest in construction and safety at Sweet Mango arose after the recent August 4th fire. The restaurant has been closed since that time.

Based on what was learned at the meeting, it appears that Sweet Mango may be closed for a while longer.  Before DCRA issues a certificate of occupancy for Sweet Mango they are reviewing all discernible work at the building and comparing it with known permits. The intent is to review unpermitted work, like that of the second story addition (enclosed in 2009), and make sure it is safe and meets current building codes. While its likely that most if not all of the work would have been allowable as a matter of right, that doesn’t negate the requirement of permits or inspections. Should anything not comply with current building codes, Sweet Mango will either have to remove it or go before the Board of Zoning Adjustment for a variance.

The long and the short of it is that this may take a little time, and until the review, inspections, and permits are issued the restaurant will not get the occupancy permit required to reopen.

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Keeping a Tidy Lawn Can Avoid a $500 Fine

May 16, 2012

From May 1 to October 31, grass over 10 inches can not only be unsightly, it can also lead to a $500 fine. As the mowing season has just begun I wanted to give folks the opportunity to not only know the rules, but also share information on how to find a good lawn care provider if they don’t have one.

I’ve already been contacted by a few residents seeking recommendations for lawn and yard care but I really don’t know of anyone in the area that does this (mostly because our yard was converted to a garden). If you have had a good experience with someone please share.

Below are the District Grass and Weed Regulations from the DCRA Web site:

District regulations prohibit property owners (commercial and residential) from allowing grass and weeds on their premises to grow more than 10 inches in height. Failing to adhere to the rule could lead to fines of more than $500. Between May 1 and October 31, DCRA can immediately mow properties and issues fines.

DCRA will be hanging “door knocker” reminders at properties where the grass height is getting close to the threshold to try to encourage voluntary compliance before the city has to intervene.

Tall grass can trigger respiratory problems like asthma and allergies in District residents and rats and other vermin are also drawn to the over-growth. This holds serious public health implications.

DCRA regulates several types of excessive vegetative growth including: kudzu, poison ivy, oak and sumac, plants with obnoxious odors, weeds, grasses causing hay fever, and any weed growth that creates a breeding place for mosquitoes. Regulations require that these weeds be cut after no more than seven days of growth.

Weeds may be defined as any vegetation at any state of maturity that: (more…)


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