D.C. Council Considers Changes to Condominium Warranty Adjudication Process

If the COVID-19 pandemic was not already difficult enough on the D.C. real estate development community, recent proposed legislation by the D.C. Council might make developing condominiums in the city more challenging.

On September 17, 2020, the D.C. Council’s Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization held a public hearing on two bills that will impact the processing and adjudication of structural warranty claims for the District’s condominium buildings: The Condominium Warranty Claims Clarification Amendment Act of 2020 (Bill 23-0623) (Claims Clarification Act) and the Condominium Warranty Amendment Act of 2020 (Bill 23-0601) (Warranty Amendment Act).

The Claims Clarification Act, which was generally supported by members of the development community, proposes a formal process to resolve condominium warranty claims. Specifically, when a homeowner and declarant are unable to negotiate a resolution to a structural warranty claim, such claim may be submitted to and adjudicated by the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Once DHCD issues an order on the merits of the claim, the homeowner or the declarant may appeal DHCD’s decision to the Office of Administrative Hearings within 30 days. While most public testimony was in support of the proposed legislation, some individuals noted it may inadvertently encourage premature submission of warranty claims to DHCD that could be resolved by the parties. Additionally, the legislation does not establish a timeframe by which DHCD must make a decision on the claim, which allows the process to drag on and places a cloud over the declarant’s project. 

Read more ›
About The Authors
Posted in Uncategorized

Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Issues Fines to Restaurants and Bars Violating Social Distancing Measures

Dr. Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during his testimony before a Senate subcommittee on September 16 that wearing face masks may be more effective than a vaccine at protecting against COVID-19. What is surprising is the authority tasked with enforcing public health requirements for face masks in the District–the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration.

Read more ›
About The Authors
Posted in Uncategorized

Zoning Commission Approves Six-Month Extension of Orders Expiring Through December 31, 2020

As part of the initial flurry of administrative and regulatory changes in response to the ongoing pandemic, the Zoning Commission (Commission) took emergency action to approve a text amendment to the Zoning Regulations extending the validity of approval orders that otherwise would expire between April 27, 2020, and December 31, 2020. The amendment applies to orders from the Board of Zoning Adjustment approving a special exception or variance as well as orders from the Commission approving a first-stage planned unit development or any contested case such as a consolidated planned unit development. 

Read more ›
About The Author
Posted in Uncategorized

Zoning Commission Moves to Clarify Regulations for Virtual Meetings and Hearings

As COVID-19-related closures are likely to continue into 2021, the Zoning Commission (Commission) recently took emergency proposed action to further clarify the rules and procedures for virtual meetings and hearings. The text amendment applies to Commission and Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) proceedings, which have been held virtually since May 2020.

The amendment would allow for evidentiary offerings during hearings, whereas the existing regulations require submission of evidence no later than 9:00 am on the day of a hearing. However, in order to offer evidence during a hearing, the party or individual must explain how the exhibit is relevant, demonstrate good cause to allow the exhibit into the record, and show that the evidence will not unreasonably prejudice another party. The amendment also permits a party to request additional time following a hearing to respond to an exhibit entered into the record during the hearing. For evidence or comments submitted prior to a hearing, the text amendment would also restrict such submissions to no later than 24 hours in advance.

Read more ›
About The Author
Posted in Uncategorized

Board of Zoning Adjustment Reverses Zoning Administrator’s Interpretation on Multiple Dwelling Conversions in the RA-1 and RA-6 Zones

On July 1, 2020, the Board of Zoning Adjustment (Board) reversed a decision by the Zoning Administrator (ZA) allowing the by-right conversion of an existing dwelling unit into an eight-unit apartment house in the RA-1 zone.  

The crux of the appeal in BZA Case 20226 concerns the ZA’s interpretation of Subtitle U §§ 401.1 and 421.1 in the Zoning Regulations, which govern multiple dwelling uses in the RA zones. Under Subtitle U § 401.1, multiple dwelling uses are permitted as a matter-of-right in all RA zones except for the RA-1 and RA-6 zones. Whereas, in the RA-1 and RA-6 zones, Subtitle U § 421.1 dictates that special exception relief is required for “all new residential developments, except those comprising all one-family detached and semi-detached dwellings.” 

Read more ›
About The Author
Posted in Uncategorized

Summary of DCRA Business Licensing Virtual Meeting on COVID-19 Impacts to Operations

The District of Columbia’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) – the agency that, among other tasks, issues building permits and business licenses – conducted a virtual meeting on April 15, 2020. More than 500 residents and business owners submitted their business licensing questions online during the meeting so that DCRA staff could respond in real time.

While the building at 1100 4th Street SW is closed during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, DCRA has remained open for business. DCRA staff are working remotely –likely through at least May 15, 2020 – and are responding to emails. This move to a remote work environment has resulted in the following important changes at DCRA:

Read more ›
About The Author
Posted in Uncategorized

Important Update to the Office of Zoning Operations During the COVID-19 Emergency

As reported in this blog, on March 20, 2020, the District of Columbia’s Zoning Commission (the commission) and the Board of Zoning Adjustment (the BZA) suspended all public hearings and public meetings.

But, in a glimmer of positive news, the District’s Office of Zoning has announced that the Commission and the BZA will start virtual public meetings this month. The commission’s first virtual meeting will be on April 27, and the BZA’s first virtual meeting will be on April 29. All virtual meetings will be held via WebEx, and the Office of Zoning’s website says that “instructions on how to join will be made available in the coming days.”

Under the Zoning Regulations, the commission and the BZA conduct public meetings for the sole purpose of making decisions. No testimony is requested or taken during public meetings.   

Read more ›
About The Author
Posted in Uncategorized

D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue Delays Hotels and Motels Real Property Tax Payments for “First Half 2020” in Response to COVID-19

Similar to the rest of the District of Columbia government, the District’s Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR) has made changes and extended deadlines for certain real property and business sales and use tax filings this year. As a general matter, all OTR walk-in centers are closed and its building at 1101 4th Street SW is inaccessible. All staff are working remotely and taxpayers are encouraged to pay taxes either online or via mail. Also, Wells Fargo has closed many of its braches where real property taxes could have been paid in person. 

There are two notable updates to D.C. Real Property payments as a result of the COVID-19 emergency affecting property owners.

Read more ›
About The Author
Posted in Uncategorized

Fairfax County’s Response to COVID-19

Part one in a series, we will examine the effect of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on the Fairfax County, Va., commercial real estate development community. 

The below provides insight into the status of critical Fairfax agencies as of March 25, 2020.

Read more ›
About The Authors
Posted in Uncategorized

COVID-19 Impact on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals (“Court of Appeals” or “Court”) is making significant operational changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as reflected in the March 23, 2020, Order entered by Chief Judge Blackburne-Rigsby. The change to Court procedures follows suit with many appellate courts throughout the country. Last week, the United States Supreme Court announced it would postpone oral arguments through its session ending on April 1, 2020. The nation’s highest court has not postponed oral arguments in over 100 years – since the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.

The Court of Appeals will close the Historic Courthouse Building and cancel all oral arguments scheduled through May 31, 2020.  Cancelled cases will be decided without oral argument unless the Court determines that oral argument is otherwise necessary. Parties are permitted to file a motion requesting oral argument. The Court’s Order also expressly encourages the filing of motions for summary affirmance for parties seeking a decision prior to briefing or oral argument. By instituting and encouraging these policies, it appears the Court is attempting to avoid further delay by allowing judges greater latitude to decide cases without briefing or oral argument. We may see a departure from the Court’s existing procedure where many cases are argued prior to the Court’s decision. 

Read more ›
About The Authors
Posted in Uncategorized
Subscribe For Updates

getthedirtblog

Real Estate, Zoning & Land Use

Cozen O’Connor has represented residential, commercial, retail, and industrial builders in the development and redevelopment of building lots and millions of square feet of real estate. Our team handles every aspect of the zoning, land use, and development approvals process, from obtaining building permits and variances to negotiating stormwater management and traffic plans.

Head of the DC Zoning Group & Blog Editor