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 ›
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,
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
Read more ›
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.
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 as of March 23.
Read more ›
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 date
after the suspension is lifted.
- Although the hearings are suspended, other filing dates
and requirements continue to apply. This mean, for example, that pre-hearing
statements must still be filed 21 days before the scheduled hearing
date. Local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (“ANC”) will still need to be served on all filings (regardless
of whether ANC is meeting).
- OZ is continuing to accept electronic case filings
through its Interactive Zoning Information System (“IZIS”) and by filing, as well as through firstname.lastname@example.org for cases before the BZA and email@example.com for cases before the Commission.
- OZ is also
accepting new BZA and Commission applications filed through IZIS. All
application fees can be paid online, and hard copies can be submitted after OZ
dates for newly filed applications will be assigned when OZ reopens.
- Public signs which typically are picked up at the
office will not be issued until the office re-opens. If you have not already
obtained your sign and posted it 14 days before the scheduled hearing
date, the sign will be available after OZ reopens and the rescheduled hearing
dates are determined.
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 Commission voted to hold a formal public hearing (a.k.a. “set down”) on a text amendment proposed by the Office of Planning that would simplify the zoning and permitting process for many of the District’s alley lots. The text amendment is being processed under Zoning Commission case number 19-13.
The amendment would allow for an alley “tax lot” existing on or before May 18, 1958 to be converted to a “record lot” as a matter-of-right, provided the lot is at least 450 square feet in area. For alley tax lots created after May 18, 1958 but before September 6, 2016, the applicable alley lot can be converted to a record lot by special exception. For reference, tax lots are lots with numbers ranging from 800 to 1999, while record lots are commonly numbered 1 to 799. Read more ›
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 of affordable housing, but they do not appear to make much progress on clarifying the definitions of the “land use” categories in the all-important Future Land Use Map. Rather, most of those definitions appear to keep the “status quo.”
The first vote on these amendments is still scheduled for July 9th. It is anticipated that numerous councilmembers will introduce amendments next week. One such amendment could be to eliminate single family zoning as has been adopted in Minneapolis.
We will continue to monitor and update this Blog.
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 March 2018 by discussing proposed amendments to the Comprehensive Plan’s Framework Element, which is just one of the Comprehensive Plan’s 24 elements. Read more ›
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. Read more ›
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 to rank a list of “values”, which includes: “accessibility”; “diversity”; “equity”; “livability”; “opportunity”; “prosperity”; “resilience”; and “safety”. OP will use the feedback from the survey to “guide decision making” for the Comprehensive Plan amendment process.
The survey is meant to jump start the process to update the Comprehensive Plan, which stalled after the big District Council hearing in March 2018. Next, OP plans to conduct multiple “outreach activities” this summer to “share” the feedback from the DC2ME survey. We will keep an eye on the schedule for those meetings.
Unfortunately, it appears that this survey and the new round of meetings will only extend – not end – the Comprehensive Plan amendment process. Do people remember the 2017 “Open Call” to solicit amendments to the Comprehensive Plan’s map and text? Read more ›