Tuesday, December 21, 2010

DC Zoning Code Greens Up For the Holidays


As the Zoning code stands currently, grand roofs and landscaped public terraces are a great way for developers to woo the members of the Zoning Commission into granting their project approval, but they aren't specifically required amenities. In a lengthy and layered attempt to retool important aspects of the Zoning code, the Office of Planning has proposed a new requirement dubbed Green Area Ratio (GAR). Travis Parker, Development Review Specialist with the Office of Planning, says that this specific subsection of their review is one of more significant proposals: "it's a new requirement trying to improve air quality, the heat island effect, and storm water management in the city." Currently developers have limits to the amount of space their building(s) can occupy on any give lot, but it's technically up to them how they decide to use that leftover space. The new GAR stipulations would be flexible. "Developers will have options," says Parker, "whether it is green roofs or planting trees, but it requires developers to have an impact on the greening of the city."

Like LEED Certification, developers would earn a certain amount of points by including sustainable green features in their design: plantings, vegetated walls and roofs, and permeable surfaces. Through their planning decisions, developers would have to aggregate a certain amount of points depending on the scale of the development project. Bonus points can be earned for use of native plants, urban farming, and harvested storm water irrigation systems. Specifics on the point system, and the calculation of GAR can be found here.

The new rules would apply to all new new buildings requiring a Certificate of Occupancy, as well as buildings requiring a C of O and undergoing significant additions, alterations, or repairs. A more in-depth discussion with the Zoning Board on the merits of OP's GAR proposal will take place February 28th. The Zoning Commission will continue to hold preliminary hearings on the various other subsections of OP's Zoning Review through next summer, with a comprehensive final action hearing not likely to take place until the winter of 2011. Any new rules wouldn't be enforced until early 2012, "at the soonest" says Parker. Still, with development action poised to pick up as the market stabilizes, the time is ripe to lock in greener regulations as the city looks to grow more dense.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

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