Blog Archives

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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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. About The Author

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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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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

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D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Closes In-Person Permit and Licenses in response to COVID-19

Today, the District of Columbia announced that DCRA will close all of its in-person permit, license and other centers until at least April 27, 2020. Permits remain available online, and DCRA is offering “video consultations” for construction projects greater than 1,000 sq. ft. Importantly, construction can start or continue pursuant to a valid permit. DCRA inspectors are continuing to conduct on-site inspections for illegal construction. About The Author

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Status of D.C. Agencies Handling Commercial Real Estate Development Issues as of March 23

This post is part one in a series that will examine the effect of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on the Washington, D.C. commercial real estate development community.  Whether you are in the middle of construction or at the beginning of project due diligence, COVID-19 will impact all agencies in the District. Indeed, with many District of Columbia agencies teleworking, covered by limited staff, or closed altogether, owners, landlords, and developers may feel that they are in unchartered waters as they work to navigate the regulatory, entitlement, and permitting process.   To help alleviate confusion and to identify which agencies are plugging along, and where backlogs may be created, below is a summary status of critical agencies in the District

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DC Office of Zoning Announces Six COVID-19 Changes to Business-As-Usual

The District of Columbia’s Office of Zoning (“OZ”)  – the independent agency that, among other tasks, accepts development applications to the District’s Zoning Commission (the “Commission”) and Board of Zoning Adjustment (the “BZA”) – remains open for business in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, though all staff members are teleworking until at least April 27. The move to a remote work environment has resulted in the following important changes: All pending Commission and BZA hearings and decision dates have been suspended until at least April 27. Cases are being postponed in the order in which they were scheduled; e.g.,  a hearing scheduled for March 18 (the first hearing date after the suspension) will be heard on the first hearing

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The District’s Alley Lot Development Frontier May Be Expanding

There are big changes afoot for alley lot development in the District of Columbia.  Over the past year, several clients approached Cozen O’Connor with challenges in developing alley lots.  This was a peculiar juxtaposition given that the District’s Zoning Regulation rewrite in 2016 was seen as a boon for alley lot development.  It became clear the new regulations did not go far enough to ease restrictions on alley lot development.  Too many hurdles remained to make a dent in the District’s many vacant and underdeveloped alleys. On behalf of its clients, Cozen O’Connor worked directly with the District’s Office of Planning to address these regulatory hurdles and draft revisions to the alley lot regulations.  On July 8th, the District’s Zoning

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Edits to the Comprehensive Plan Framework Element Released

Today (July 2nd), Chairman Mendelson released his proposed revisions to the Comprehensive Plan’s Framework Element, as we predicted last week.  A copy of the Chairman’s edits is located on his site HERE. The First Vote is scheduled for next Tuesday (July 9). We have not had much time to digest the substance, but our initial reactions are: The Chairman’s edits were made to the existing Framework element language.  These edits do not automatically incorporate the language the Office of Planning recommended in 2017-2018.   The Chairman’s edits include a new section on “PUDs”, but it is not certain whether this language will be sufficient break the log jam in the courts. The Chairman’s edits do appear to emphasize the provision

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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