Large development projects in the District of Columbia often require some type of zoning relief. This includes relatively minor zoning relief, which goes through the Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA). The Buchanan School project is a good example in 6B06. Projects that are looking for more substantial zoning relief go through the Planned Unit Development (PUD) process. We have three recent PUDs: 1401 Penn, Watkins Alley, and Bowie's/Signature.
But there's a rare process that applies to large commercial projects that are not looking for zoning relief: the large tract review (LTR). LTRs apply to sites of three or more acres or sites with 50,000 square feet of commercial space. The key word to focus on is review. The LTR process is not an approval--no one gets to sign off on the project, as the BZA or Zoning Commission would in other cases. Instead, the LTR requires that the developer engage city agencies and other stakeholders (like the ANC and community). This results in communication and participation, but not approval or denial.
Who is Involved?
Through the LTR, a range of stakeholders are pulled into the development process, which is managed by the Office of Planning (OP). Once the developer files the LTR application, OP forwards it to a range of DC agencies, including DCRA, DPW, FEMS, etc. There is also a notification process, which includes the affected ANC, civic associations, and property owners within 200 feet of the property.
What else happens?
Cities agencies will review and comment on the application. In addition, a series of meetings typically take place. These include meetings between the applicant and OP, as well as meetings between the applicant and city agencies. The applicant is also require to hold at least one meeting with the community.
How does the process conclude?
Regulations require that the review be completed within 60 days of filing the application. OP will collect comments from stakeholders and then produce a technical report that summarizes issues raised during the process. OP provides the report to the applicant and other stakeholders, including the ANC. The report doesn't include and approval or denial, but it can raise issues that the applicant can respond to.
The LTR is an uncommon process. The OP website lists only 14 past LTRs, and only one in Ward 6 (not in Capitol Hill). It's also clear what the LTR is not: it is not an opportunity for anyone, including the ANC, to approve or disapprove a project. What the LTR does do is provide an opportunity for dialog. Unlike a basic by right project--where a developer does not need to do any type of consulation with the community--the LTR requires that the developer seek out and listen to feedback. This means the community has less influence than with a PUD, but it still provides the community a voice.
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