Minutes - February 22, 2010

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B

Adopted on April 26, 2010

 

The meeting started at about 7:05 p.m. at the MPD's 4th District Community Room, 6001 Georgia Avenue, NW, Chair Yvonne Jefferson (also 4B08) presiding.

 

Also present were Commissioners 4B01 Sara Green, 4B02 Faith Wheeler, 4B03 Monique Michelle Smith, 4B04 James Sydnor, 4B05 Brenda Speaks, 4B07 Judi Jones, and 4B09 Douglass Sloan.  A quorum was present for all votes.

 

Actions

1)   In a 6-2-0 show-of-hands vote, the Commission agreed to support the passage of two pieces of legislation under consideration by the D.C. City Council that would affect property tax rates for blighted and vacant properties.  They are B18-546, the Neighborhood Preservation Amendment Act of 2009, and B18-407, the Blighted Properties Abatement Reform Act of 2009.

 

The vote followed a lengthy presentation and discussion with Ward 4 Council Member Muriel Bowser, Commissioners, and residents. Council Member Bowser explained that until last summer vacant properties were taxed at $10 per $100 of assessed property value, compared to the tax rate of 85 cents per $100 for occupied properties. Council Member Bowser said she wants to distinguish between vacant and blighted property. 

 

The two bills will likely be modified as the Council continues its discussion, but Council Member Bowser said she supports establishing four tax levels: 85 cents per $100 for occupied homes, $1.85 per $100 for occupied business/commercial properties, $5 per $100 for vacant properties, and $10 per $100 for blighted properties.

 

Several Commissioners said they are concerned about placing excessive fees and taxes on those who are unable to sell or rent their properties.

 

Commissioners Jefferson and Jones said they are concerned about those with a few modest investment properties who cannot rent or sell them in today's very difficult market.  Commissioner Jones said she disagrees with the whole bill.  Commissioner Jefferson asked for a fee/tax structure with exemptions that take into account an owner's unsuccessful attempts to sell or rent the property for a fair price.

 

Commissioner Smith said that the rate of $5 per $100 of assessment value for vacant properties is high and that she is concerned about low-income families who lose their homes due to foreclosure. Gloria Mobley, of 4B02, said she is also concerned about vacancies from foreclosure and the death of the owner.

 

Council Member Bowser said she will consider exemptions that make sense, are enforceable, and can't be exploited.  She is considering options to encourage banks to let families stay in their homes as tenants, she said.

 

Carlos Jiacinto, of ANC 4B02, said he supports the legislation.  ANC 4A Chair Steve Whatley said that 4A has voted to support the bills.

 

2) Following a motion from Commissioner Green, the agenda was adopted in a unanimous show-of-hands vote.  It was noted that the recommendation vote on the blighted and vacant property bills had already taken place.

 

3)  ANC 4A Chair Steve Whatley conducted the elections for Treasurer and Secretary.

 

Treasurer

Commissioner Sloan was elected Treasurer in a unanimous acclamation vote following Commissioner Wheeler's nomination.  Commissioner Sydnor was nominated by Commissioner Jefferson, but declined.

 

Secretary

Commissioner Green was elected Secretary in a 5-3-0 roll-call vote following Commissioner Jefferson's nomination.  Commissioner Jones was nominated by Commissioner Sydnor.  Commissioners Green, Wheeler, Speaks, Jefferson and Sloan voted for Commissioner Green. Commissioners Smith, Sydnor, and Jones voted for Commissioner Jones.

 

4)  In a unanimous show-of-hands vote following a motion from Commissioner Green, the Commission adopted a resolution opposing the establishment of a pawn shop at 7301 Georgia Avenue.

 

The adopted resolution:

"Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B (ANC 4B) opposes the issuance of a pawnbroker's license or a certificate of occupancy to any concern or person requesting such a license or permit for 7301 Georgia Avenue, NW.

 

We have heard from neighboring residents and leaders from Concerned Neighbors, Inc. (CNI) who are concerned about increasing crime and declining real estate values should a pawnshop open at 7301 Georgia Avenue, NW. These residents are also concerned that the establishment of a pawnshop will permanently alter the character of the community by discouraging many desirable businesses from locating in the area.

 

We understand that at least one official at the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) believes that the affected Advisory Neighborhood Commission's position should not receive "great weight."  We have heard the opposing views of an attorney who is an ANC 4B01 resident.  DCRA's position is that a hearing or "deliberation" before issuing a decision must be required in order for DCRA to be obliged to give an ANC's position great weight regarding an application for a pawnbroker license.

 

The neighborhood attorney notes that the DCRA official has cited no valid authority for his position and the neighborhood attorney states he believes the ANC's position should be given great weight where, as here, the license is "of significance to neighborhood planning and development within its neighborhood commission area..." See DC Code Sec.1-207.38(d).               

 

Therefore, our opposition to the issuance of a pawnbroker license or occupancy permit for 7301 Georgia Avenue, NW will benefit the community and the city in at least two significant ways. First, by representing the views of residents living around 7301 Georgia Avenue, NW.  Second, by providing non-financial support for a legal challenge that may clarify and expand the rights of residents throughout ANC 4B and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions citywide.

 

We also request that the Metropolitan Police Department and other city agencies provide records related to crime and pawn shop licenses citywide, according to the provisions of the City's Freedom of Information Act.

 

We authorize 4B01 Commissioner Sara Green to represent this resolution before City agencies and government."

 

The vote followed a discussion with Nicholas Majett, of DCRA, residents, and Commissioners and Ward 4 City Council Member Muriel Bowser.  Commissioner Green reported that representatives from Famous Pawn and Property Owner Dr. Wesley Gordon were invited, but declined.

 

Mr. Majett said that ANCs do not have "great weight" with respect to the issuance of a pawnbroker license.  DCRA cannot deny a license to applicants that meet the legal requirements, he said. He also said that the Zoning Administrator considers pawn shops to be a retail use that is permissible in C2A zones as a matter of right. He noted that the city and individual DCRA employees can be sued if they stop matter-of-right permits and licenses from being issued.

 

Residents pointed out that construction work was taking place at 7301 Georgia, but no permits were posted, and that DCRA did not stop the work, despite many requests.  Mr. Majett noted that his inspectors visited three times but were never there to see work being performed.

 

About 15 residents, including ANC 4A Commissioner Dwayne Toliver and ANC 4A Chair Steve Whatley, stood when asked who was opposed to the pawn shop. No one stood in support. Chair Whatley said ANC 4A would be willing to hire an attorney or other expert help to fight the shop

 

Peter Matos, of Fern Place, said that there will be legal action to prevent the store from opening.  Commissioner Toliver said that DCRA needs to give the community and the ANC more notice of these licenses and should be more concerned about the community than about being sued.

 

Other residents who spoke in opposition to the pawn shop were Fernando Mayol, Ellen McBarnett, and Andre Carley, the Vice President of Concerned Neighbors, Inc., a group with members who live close to 7301 Georgia. 

 

Council Member Bowser said she has heard the concern and will work with residents to oppose it.

 

5)   Following a motion from Commissioner Green, and in a unanimous show-of-hands vote, the Commission adopted a resolution calling on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to clean up and repair the underpass at the Takoma Metro Station and install new lighting there in conjunction with the installation of a mural.

 

The adopted resolution:

"Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B asks that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority  (WMATA) provide its customers, nearby businesses, and the community with modest and necessary improvements at the underpass at Takoma Metro Station, including a thorough cleaning of the concrete throughout, the repair of the cracked and broken concrete, and up-to-date lighting throughout, in conjunction with its approval of the art from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

 

One of the oldest stations in the system, the Takoma Station has long been in need of basic improvements and regular maintenance. 

 

WMATA is about to receive the gift of a $250,000 work of public art funded in part by D.C. taxpayers. The artist, Sam Gilliam, is internationally known and arguably D.C.'s most important artist.  This installation will likely become a tourist destination, generating increased Metro ridership. It is not only respectful but good business as well that this major work be displayed appropriately.

 

In addition, several new businesses within one block of the underpass have recently opened, investing many hundreds of thousands of dollars in the community. And the D.C. government grant for $50,000 on facade improvements for shops located within two blocks of the underpass is nearly completed.

 

WMATA should do its share as well.

 

We understand WMATA's serious financial problems.  However, these requests are modest and in WMATA's interest too. We are concerned that despite months of requests, WMATA has not yet specifically agreed to do the work nor provided cost estimates.

 

We thank City Council Members David Catania, Muriel Bowser, and Michael Brown and WMATA Board Member Anthony Giancola for their help and support and ask that they continue to work to get the improvements done before the art is installed. We also ask for support from the rest of the D.C. City Council and from Mayor Adrian Fenty.

 

We ask that if WMATA declines to do the work that WMATA staff and the WMATA Board provide cost estimates and a written explanation of why the work cannot be performed.

 

Commissioners 4B01 Sara Green and 4B07 Judi Jones are authorized to speak on this resolution."

 

The vote followed a brief discussion.  Andre Carley, of 4B01, who was a member of the panel that selected the mural, said that the cleaning should be done and that committee

was assured there would be some type of cleaning at the site.  Commissioner Smith said that cleaning should be done every three months.

 

6)  In a 4-1-0 show-of-hands vote following a motion made by Commissioner Green, the Commission adopted the Quarterly Report for the First Quarter of FY 2010.

 

7)  In a 4-1-0 show-of-hands vote following a motion made by Commissioner Green, the Commission adopted the minutes for the January 25, 2010 public meeting.

 

8)  In a unanimous show-of-hands vote following a motion made by Commissioner Jefferson, the Commission agreed to send a letter of support to the D.C. Department of Transportation, with a copy to the appropriate staff person in the City of Takoma Park, Maryland, in support of the installation a sign at the northwestern corner of New Hampshire and Eastern Avenues.  The sign would welcome visitors to the City of Takoma Park, Maryland.

 

Community Concerns

1)  Erica Myrtle-Holmes of Piney Branch Road, NW, asked the Commission for help paying for tuition at the D.C. Youth Orchestra Program (DCYOP) for her children.  She said she received $200 in financial assistance from Council Member Bowser's office, but has a very low income and needs more help. She said other Council Members provide more assistance to their constituents for DCYOP tuition.

 

Commissioner Smith said a DCYOP grant proposal had been on ANC 4B's agenda a few months ago but no DCYOP official appeared. She said she wants to work to get more help for Ward 4 residents.

 

2)  Wanda Oates, of ANC 4B05,  said she opposes imposing fines on those who do not shovel their sidewalks.  Chair Jefferson said she would add the snow removal issue to the March agenda.

 

3) Carlos Jiacinto, of ANC 4B02, said he is concerned about the two vacant homes on Maple Street, NW.  Commissioner Jones said the homes are in the historic district and are part of a development site.  One of the homes will be demolished, she added.  Mr. Jiacinto was also concerned about snow removal and parking spaces during the storm.

 

4)  Regina Page, of ANC 4B01, said that if she is required to shovel the sidewalk in front of her property she should be able to reserve a parking space on the street in front of her property.

 

5)  Ellen McBarnett of ANC 4B01, said she wants a stop sign at the intersection of Piney Branch Road and Dahlia Street, NW.  This intersection is dangerous for pedestrians.

 

6)  Erica Myrtle-Holmes, of Piney Branch Road, NW, said she wants more police patrols on the side streets.

 

7)   Gloria Mobley, of 4B07, said she would like to see an upcoming ANC 4B discussion on the root causes of youth crime.

 

Presentation

Metropolitan Police Department 4D Commander Kimberly Chisley-Missouri introduced herself and answered questions. She discussed several key problems in 4D, including the recent shooting of a teenager at 7th and Rittenhouse, school resource officer assignments, thefts from autos, the Summer Youth Employment Program and summer curfews.

 

Discussion

Commissioner Jones, Council Member Bowser, and Mr. Nicholas Majett, of DCRA, talked about problems at the Lamond-Riggs Branch of the U.S. Postal Service, including excessive noise and other problems. 

 

Mr. Majett said that DCRA has no jurisdiction over the building and that the General Services Administration (GSA) must intervene.  He said he would provide the name of a GSA contact who could help.

 

Commissioner Jones said that it should not take eight years to address the problems, and that the U.S. Postal Service and the Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, along with DCRA, have not responded to requests.

 

 

 

--- Submitted by Sara Green, Secretary