Domino's Glover Park Application Teeters, Succeeds
Updated: Dec 27, 2019
Domino's application with the DC Board of Zoning Adjustments to seek a variance and special exception to open a store at 2330 Wisconsin was approved on January 17th, 2018, after nearly failing. The Glover Park Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC-3B) had supported approval of the proposal back in November on the grounds that they had concerns of extended vacancies on our commercial strip, and also Chipotle next door had applied for, and received, a similar BZA special exception approval to operate a fast food establishment back in 2010, though they were never challenged on the variance issue which never came up for them. For more background, see initial Domino's article here.
The application, though, nearly was denied back in December which might have caused the plan to fall apart. The DC Office of Planning needs to weigh in on such applications and Crystal Myers from OP recommended to the BZA denial of the application noting Domino's had not proven an "exceptional situation" and a particularly "practical difficulty" to warrant a variance to the rule of a 25 foot setback from a residential area (i.e. the parking lot, which is zoned residential). The representative from the Office of Planning did not support the ANC's justification of a long-vacant property and the need to fill the space. Both the BZA and the Office of Planning wrestled with the issue of the unique "split zoning" of this property (commercial store, residential parking lot) and BZA Chairman Frederick Hill wondered whether there was some mistake made in the major 2016 DC zoning overhaul. He said the intention of that was to make it easier for people to stay in DC, not to run them out.
Chairman Hill, struggling to find some reason to overrule the opinion of the Office of Planning, asked the building owner to give some further justification for the variance request. Richard Isen went into the history of the building, the technicalities of the split zoning, and the difficulty in renting this space. He said that a body waxing business, a veterinary office, and a local bank looked but all rejected the space. They even offered the El Salvadoran Consulate a 40% discount on the rent they were paying, but they declined and the building sat empty for nearly 2 years. Near the end of the long testimony, the Chairman sighed: "I'm having a difficult time with this."
BZA put off a vote until they reconvened on January 17th, 2018. By that time, the Office of Planning had reviewed a supplemental report provided by Domino's which further explained how they meet the conditions for the variance, and OP changed their opinion of denial to an opinion of approval based on that report. BZA noted the unique difficulty of maintaining a front and back entrance to this property, and ruled that Domino's met the conditions of an "exceptional situation" and "practical difficulty" and voted for approval. The six ANC conditions related to parking, trash and noise, also became part of the order, which BZA will be in charge of policing and enforcing. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) stated that Domino's may not block traffic on Wisconsin Avenue, but otherwise had no objection. The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) reviewed the plan and offered no objection. Two neighbors objected through official testimony - the BZA Board listened, but decided the concerns about crime, rats, delivery drivers and the general distaste for fast food did not specifically address the technicalities of the variance and special exception issues, and also noted that the ANC conditions are included.
Whew - that was a lot of review for a pizza shop! All for the best, I guess, if the parking, trash and noise orders are enforced. Domino's will be closing it's Georgetown store, which will be redeveloped, and they will begin the permitting and construction process as soon as their lease details are finalized.