Blog Archives

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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The District’s Comprehensive Plan Amendment Process Is Starting Up Again: First Vote on July 9, 2019

The Comprehensive Plan amendment process is lurching back to life and the DC Council’s first vote is scheduled for July 9, 2019.  As we noted last month, the District of Columbia’s Office of Planning (“OP”) launched its DC2ME survey to solicit input on the ‘values’ that District residents want to be reflected in the amendment process. Also, OP had a presence at the recent Capital Pride parade and 11th Annual DC Housing Expo and Home Show to obtain additional feedback on the ‘values’. According to agency staff, further outreach is scheduled for this summer but specific times and locations have yet to be made public. This outreach broke a long period of dormancy since the 12+-hour District Council hearing in

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Council of the District of Columbia Approves Significant Increase in Transfer and Recordation Taxes

Effective October 1, 2019, the transfer tax and recordation tax for real estate sales of commercial and mixed-used property on transactions of $2,000,000.00 or above will be significantly increased. On May 28, 2019, the Council of the District of Columbia unanimously voted to approve Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget.  This budget includes an increase of the current 2.9% transfer and recordation taxes to 5% on sales of commercial and mixed-use property valued at $2,000,000.00 or more.  The increase will also apply to transfers of a controlling economic interest in entities that own commercial real property. About The Author

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Comprehensive Plan Amendment Process Now Seeks to Evaluate the “Values” of DC Residents

It’s ALIVE!  The Comprehensive Plan amendment process comes back: Almost three years on, the District of Columbia’s Office of Planning (“OP”) wants District residents to identify key values to direct the Comprehensive Plan amendment process. As many of our readers know, the Comprehensive Plan is a 20-year framework that guides future growth and development.  As part of the ongoing amendment process, OP wants to know: “What are the ‘values’ of District residents?”  “How should those ‘values’ direct the District’s long-term planning?” Spearheaded by its new director, Andrew Trueblood, OP launched an online survey called “DC2ME” to find out.  The survey will be “live” only until June 30, 2019, so now is the time to act. The online survey asks participants

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Successfully Integrating Tree Protection with Development in the “City of Trees”

The District of Columbia (“D.C.”) has a relatively long history of being known for its trees, stemming back to the planting of 60,000 trees initiated by the last Governor of D.C., Alexander “Boss” Shepard in the 1870s.  While his tenure was brief, his vision of D.C. being the “City of Trees” endured as tree planting efforts were continued by the Federal Government, National Park agencies, citizens, and leaders such as Lady Bird Johnson.  (See City of Trees by Melanie Choukas-Bradley 3rd Edition.) Today, the goal of preserving and increasing D.C.’s tree population continues.  One of D.C.’s top sustainability goals is to increase the tree canopy of the city from 35% to 40% by 2032.  (https://doee.dc.gov/service/canopy-3000.)  In furtherance of this goal,

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DC Mayor Challenges Residents and Agencies to Remove Barriers Preventing More Housing

It all started in 1894, when the famous architect Thomas Franklin Schneider designed and constructed the Cairo.  At 164 feet tall, the Cairo was the first residential skyscraper in the District of Columbia (the “District”), causing an uproar among the District’s residents.  The concern was the safety of the structure of such buildings and the ability to fight flames in the event of a fire.  In response, the District’s Board of Commissioners passed a regulation limiting the height of all future residential buildings.  By 1899, Congress passed a law, amended in 1910, commonly known as the Height Act, limiting the height of District buildings to 130 feet. While the fear that skyscrapers in the District could cause the whole city

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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