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Georgetown fights carryout
Residents worried that city has abandoned support for their concerns
(Published May 3, 1999)
By OSCAR ABEYTA
Georgetown residents say D.C. officials, including the mayor, are ignoring their concerns by granting a building permit to a carryout restaurant in a location where residents have fought for years to keep that type of business out.
But Lloyd Jordan, director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs which issued the permit March 18, says he is well aware of residents’ long fight over the 35th Street NW site and pledged he "will not let (the owners) open an improper business in that location."
"What the law allows and requires is that the people there have a right to be doing what they’re doing there right now," Jordan said.
He stressed that his office has no intention of issuing a certificate of occupancy for a carryout restaurant in that location, a use which was banned by the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment after a protracted battle in which nearby homeowners were joined in their opposition by officials from former mayor Marion Barry’s administration.
Jordan said the legal use of a building is not established with a construction permit but rather when a certificate of occupancy is issued. No application has been filed for a certificate of occupancy for the site, he said.
Despite Jordan’s assurances, which were offered during a telephone interview, members of the Georgetown Homeowners Alliance remain wary of city officials’ sincerity due to what they feel has been unsatisfactory communication.
Alliance member Jim Handley said repeated at-tempts to set up a meeting with Mayor Anthony A. Williams have been unsuccessful. He complained of being passed full circle among mayoral aides and also noted that Jordan’s department issued the construction permit to owner Basil Gogos one day before a scheduled meeting with Advisory Neighborhood Commission chairman Barbara Zartman to discuss the matter.
Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Douglas Patton, whom Handley credited with imposing a one-day stop-work order due to the owner’s alleged initial failure to post his city permit, was unavailable for comment. Handley said he finds it "ironic" that the mayor’s office has directed the neighborhood’s complaints about a prospective business to a mayoral aide charged with helping develop business and that Patton has not returned calls about scheduling a meeting with the mayor.
Members of the George-town Homeowners Alliance have fought carryout restaurants in the location, 1659 35th St. NW, for nearly five years. Their first target was a Chinese restaurant deemed to be doing too much carryout business at the location. That restaurant closed in 1995 and the owner of the building tried to get permits to build a Papa John’s pizza delivery business there. When the permits were pulled for that venture, Gogos appealed to the Board of Zoning Adjustment to have them reinstated. At that point, DCRA joined the neighbors in opposing the appeal and the board issued a judgment forbidding any further applications for use of the building as a carryout restaurant.
Handly maintains the issuance of the current building permit is improper be-cause the application states the existing use as "Chinese restaurant and carryout," which it is not. The application states the permit is for interior use only, but the permit issued allows repairs on a back stairway which Handly says was never legally approved.
"I hope (the owners) are not stupid, because they will have wasted a whole lot of money," Jordan said. "I will not let them open an improper business in that location."
He said a sit-down restaurant is allowed for that location. Jordan said that the law allows a restaurant to do some portion of its business on a carryout basis, but that use is limited to roughly 10 percent of its square footage and usage.
Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator