Blog Archives

How Zoning Changes Will Impact Data Centers & the Energy Market 

The data center permitting and entitlement review process might be getting more difficult in Northern Virginia. Home to nearly 300 data centers, Northern Virginia has become known as “Data Center Alley.” Scattered across Loudoun, Fairfax, and Prince William counties, these data centers handle more than a third of the world’s online traffic. And the demand for more data centers is rising, fueled by AI-related needs, growing industrial and manufacturing demand, general electrification, and buildout of EV charging infrastructure. About The Author

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Mayor Bowser Announces Tax Abatement Program to Spur Downtown Residential Conversions

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the writing has been on the wall that downtown D.C. could use a breath of fresh air. With office vacancy rates skyrocketing, the Bowser administration has made no secret of its desire to resuscitate downtown D.C. as a livelier mixed-use neighborhood. One of the primary aims of this policy goal is to encourage the conversion of office buildings into residences. From a land use perspective, this is a bet on “if you build it, they will come.” But the market has been slow to embrace the conversion process. About The Authors

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Major Shake Up in the Department of Buildings’ Zoning Division

It is a New Year for D.C. zoning and we are all wondering what 2023 will bring given the recent changes at the Department of Buildings. As of October 2022, the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) was officially dissolved and split into two new agencies – the Department of Buildings and the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection. The move comes two years after a D.C. Council vote to dissolve the DCRA. Under the new structure, the updated Department of Buildings is charged with issuing building permits, conducting inspections, and enforcing the building code and Zoning Regulations while the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection oversees licensing and regulating businesses.  About The Authors

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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

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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. About The Authors

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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.  About The Author

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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

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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: About The Author

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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

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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. About The Authors

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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