Last night’s three hour ANC 6B meeting was dominated by discussion of whether the commission should support a liquor license for the Hill Center, the new community center that is opening next month in the Old Naval Hospital building on Pennsylvania Avenue. Here are the highlights:
- During commission announcements, I thanked the community and the commission for supporting efforts to keep Hill East united in Ward 6 during the redistricting battle. I also announced that Commissioner Francis Campbell (6B10) had agreed to serve as vice chair of the new Hill East Task Force (I serve as chair). The task force will hold its first meeting in the next few weeks (more details to come).
- The full commission unanimously approved (8-0) the ANC 6B Resolution in Opposition to Bill 19-219. The resolution was initially passed during an emergency executive committee meeting on Memorial Day, prior to both the June 1 redistricting hearing and the redistricting subcommittee’s decision to move the ward boundary to 19th Street.
- Chris Taylor and Reggie Woodson of Pepco discussed the company’s plans to install smart meters on all Capitol Hill homes by the end of the year. The new meters will allow residents to easily view their energy consumption online and will immediately alert Pepco when power goes out. In most cases, meter installation (a 5 minute process) will take place regardless of whether the homeowner is home or not. Representatives will leave door tags requesting the owner schedule an appointment if inside access is required. Residents will be notified two weeks in advance and can call 202-833-7500 if they would prefer to schedule an appointment for the new meter installation.
- Mackenzie Baris of the Respect DC Coalition discussed their efforts to ensure Walmart is providing community benefits to all DC residents. She distributed a sample resolution that the commission could consider in the future that would urge the city to establish standards that Walmart must meet to operate in DC.
- In the night’s “main event,” the commission unanimously supported (8-0) a request by the Old Naval Hospital Foundation for a new liquor license for the Hill Center, contingent on a signed voluntary agreement. The Center, represented by former city councilmember Sharon Ambrose and Old Naval Hospital Foundation President Nicky Cymrot, made significant concessions:
- Alcohol service hours in the outside summer garden were reduced from 7 am – 12 am daily to 7 am – 9 pm Sunday-Thursday, 7 am – 10 pm on Friday and Saturday.
- Outside entertainment would end at 8:00 pm Sunday-Thursday and 9:00 pm on Friday and Saturday.
- Outside capacity after 8 pm was reduced from 500 to 300.
- Valet parking would be required for events with 30 or more people.
- Inside hours of operation were reduced by an hour – the Center would close Sunday-Thursday at 1:00 am and Friday-Saturday at 2:00 am. Ambrose and Cymrot both said that they did not anticipate having indoor events beyond midnight.
Despite concessions by the Hill Center, around a dozen residents continued to ask for further concessions, including no outside amplification or entertainment and inside operating hours that mirrored the outside hours (9:00 pm close on weekdays, 10:00 pm close on weekends). We also heard predictions of drunken Hill Center patrons parading down streets and strewing trash.
I voted to support the Hill Center voluntary agreement. City funds were used to restore the Old Naval Hospital for the benefit of the community. If the Hill Center fails, the city will be on the hook. Special events will help the Center earn the revenue it needs to achieve its mission and offer community programs. In my view, the Hill Center made significant concessions – they were asked under stricter standards than restaurants on Barracks Row – and clearly understood that it is in their best interest to have a good relationship neighbors. We should not further tie the hands of the Center before it even opens…and I trust that the Center staff will be responsive if problems arise.
- Due to time constraints, the commission postponed a final vote to July on whether to recommend that the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) approve a special exception to allow Chipotle Mexican Restaurant to open on Barracks Row. Chipotle’s hearing before the BZA is on July 19. Chipotle representatives did talk about their commitment to the community and their intent to support efforts to maintain Barracks Row.
- I was disappointed that the commission once again postponed action on a formal resolution in opposition to a liquor license moratorium on Barracks Row. Action was postponed because Commissioner Dave Garrison (6B01) requested a significant amount of time to ask questions and make comments on the resolution. Given time constraints, the commission agreed to table the resolution until July. I’m not sure why Commissioner Garrison waited until the meeting to raise his concerns. ANC 6B’s Retail Mix Task Force recommendations have been publicly available since February. Action on the resolution is overdue.
- Recommendations from the ANC 6B Transportation Committee and the Eastern Market Report were also tabled until the July meeting.
A reminder that ANC 6B’s Outreach and Constituent Services Task Force will hold its first meeting tonight (Wed., June 15), 7:00 pm at the ANC 6B Office, 703 D Street SE (across from the Eastern Market Metro Plaza). Please stop by and share your ideas on how the commission can do a better job of communicating with residents.