By: Taylor Ardrey
WASHINGTON – Long-time residents of Mount Pleasant are angry with the new construction of condominiums in their neighborhood, and its impact on their property values.
Mount Pleasant, a D.C. neighborhood where the residents value their historic homes and surroundings, is under a major renovation with the construction of new, modern style condominiums. These condominiums attract a younger crowd and interfere with the neighborhoods’ original aesthetic and character. Residents are furious at the new construction and its developers, because it would conflict with the houses that have been there for years. These issues came to light at Mount Pleasant’s ANC meeting on Nov. 14 at Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library.
The community is so close-knit that in some cases residents go to the ANC meetings to be a voice for their neighbors. “The ANC meetings happen once a month. I don’t always attend, but I attended this one because my neighbor had a concern about a new construction. There’s a vacant lot on our block and our neighbors held the property for a long time, and they sold it. The developer wants to put up a structure that is not compatible or consistent with the independent houses that are there,” said Regenia Ingram.
A major problem is that the new structure would inevitably attach to the rows of existing homes in the perimeter. The residents are concerned, because the structure would be deeper set in the lot compared to the original homes. It is also going to be taller, which can put a major shadow over the neighbors’ homes.
Neighbors are beginning to accept the fact that the development is going to happen regardless, but they hope the developers at least follow proper protocol. “We hope that they will follow the variance rule and have the five foot of yard space on the west side of the building. At this point it seems as though we’re just going to have to worry about the space, because evidently they are going to let them build the structure three stories above ground when the existing row houses are 2 1/2 structures above ground with a basement,” added Ingram.
Donna Murphy, a 22-year resident of Mount Pleasant, came to the ANC meeting with a list of concerns and developer violations. With the two rectangular buildings being built right next to her home on Monroe Street, Murphy became concerned when she found out that the new building will land directly on her property
“The building of the new structure will put a 35-foot wall on my property line. Where there is now a 7-foot fence, they will put a 35-foot wall. The zoning administrator ruled that the wall has to be 5 feet back from the property line, so there is a cushion and the developer is asking the BZA (Board of Zoning Appeals) for a variance, which will waiver that requirement. The developer wants to build up to the property line rather than having the 5-foot cushion. We oppose that and the ANC just voted to oppose the variance,” said Murphy.
The neighbors would have been more open to the idea if the developer built a line of communication instead of doing things without getting the community involved. The lack of consulting angered the neighbors and ever since the development has been put in place, it has been a battle for the residents.
Murphy is greatly concerned about preserving the historic value of her home. Her home is registered on the national register of historic places. “We have a tree under our property that is protected under D.C. law and the developer has refused to talk to us about protecting it, which is really a problem for me unfortunately,” said Murphy.
The residents in Mount Pleasant are open to new residents in the area, but they do not respect how the developer is trying to build the condominiums.
“The problem is that you have developers who want to come in and make a cheap buck off the neighborhood. They don’t live here, they are not from the community and they don’t respect the community. If you have respect for the community, you wouldn’t operate this way. You would actually talk to the neighbors and you would care about the quality of life that people would enjoy from your project,” explained Keenan Keller, Murphy’s husband.
“This issue puts us in a tough spot because I encourage development and affordable housing in our neighborhood,” said Commissioner Paul Carrer.
The battle of the development is not over just yet for the residents of Mount Pleasant. They will have to play the waiting game until the Board of Zoning appeal hearing on November 29 to see a verdict for the outstanding issues.