Public Meetings Set on D.C. Building Height Limits

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    NEWSLETTERS

    D.C. is considering whether to allow taller buildings to accommodate new growth in the city. News4's Tom Sherwood shows us why the committee is moving slowly and cautiously with their decision. (Published Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013)

    Federal and District of Columbia officials will hold a series of public meetings on potential changes to the building height restrictions in the nation's capital.

    The National Capital Planning Commission held a kickoff work session Wednesday morning.

    “Well before 20 years from now, we would exhaust the capacity of our city to accommodate the population growth,” D.C. Planning Director Harriet Tregoning said.

    Public meetings are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Aug. 3 at the Tenleytown-Friendship Library in Northwest, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Dorothy I. Height/Benning Library in Northeast, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 7 at Mt. Pleasant Library in Northwest, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at Catholic University’s Crough Center and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 13 at the District Office of Planning in Southwest.

    Officials will present visual models and an economic feasibility analysis.

    “I was, like so many of us, horrified by some of the images I saw,” said Mina Wright of the General Services Administration. “We cannot let history put a chokehold on growth and dynamism.”

    Under the Height of Buildings Act of 1910, most buildings in Washington have been limited to about 12 stories. Advocates say easing the restrictions could open up new opportunities for development and accommodate the city's swelling population. But preservationists have vowed to fight changes to the law.

    Any strategic changes to the Height Act take into consideration preservation of the views and settings of landmarks and monuments, maintaining the city’s skyline, and minimizing negative impacts to nationally historic resources.

    “We really need to be careful,” said presidential appointee Beth White, of Chicago. “This is a very profound decision, and we can’t walk it back if we get this wrong.”

    Tregoning said the right-sized buildings would offer new life to the city.

    “The rooftops are some of the most delightful places in the city,” she said.

    Federal officials said a growing city could accommodate new buildings.

    “This city has undergone an incredible transformation in the last 20 years, and we should be so lucky to have these problems,” said Thomas Luebke, of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.