A group of Foggy Bottom residents reported that the GW Hospital is disturbing the community and violating zoning orders because it accepts deliveries to its 24th Street loading dock outside allowed times.
The group of residents began compiling photos of the violations after being disturbed by noisy deliveries before 7 a.m. and after 6 p.m. this fall. The loading dock is located near the intersection of 24th Street and New Hampshire Avenue, within 50 feet of four town houses and the Jefferson House Condominiums.
“From the information I’ve received, it seems clear that certain municipal conditions have been violated,” Metropolitan Police Commander Jeffrey Moore said. “I understand that the hospital has to operate, but I also realize that people want the peace and quiet they are entitled to.”
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Dorothy Miller and others said the hospital deliveries are in violation of one of the 19 conditions attached to the Board of Zoning Adjustment order that approved the hospital construction. The BZA regulates land usage throughout the District. According to the order, “the hospital shall require that deliveries to the loading dock not occur before 7 a.m. or after 6 p.m.”
The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is responsible for enforcing zoning regulations and assigning penalties. Some residents say that the organization is not able to enforce all the municipal regulations for which it is responsible.
“These orders could be enforced, but our DCRA is so dysfunctional that we usually don’t get a response on zoning orders, especially when GW is involved,” said Elizabeth Elliot, chair of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission.
DCRA Director David Clark declined to comment on the situation in Foggy Bottom.
Hospital officials also declined to comment on the alleged violations.
The hospital has been a point of contention between the community and the University in the past.
In March 1998, GW announced plans for a $92 million facility, which Foggy Bottom residents immediately opposed when the proposed location was revealed.
“The ANC considers the present site of the hospital to be more suitable for the operations of a hospital and considerably less intrusive on the neighborhood in terms of traffic and noise,” then Foggy Bottom leader Miller said in a January 1999 Hatchet article.
When the BZA approved the hospital plan in August 1999, the Foggy Bottom Association filed a request with the D.C. Court of Appeals to reconsider the decision. Despite the protests, GW broke ground on the project in October 1999 and completed construction in August 2002.
“They built their own problem on this one,” Miller said. “We warned them from day one that it was no place for a hospital, but they went ahead and built it anyway.”
Resident Ben Klotz began monitoring the violations in September from his dining room window at 2403 I St. Klotz said the most grating noise comes from a truck that pumps liquid oxygen into the hospital tank, sometimes after 10 p.m. Klotz said the driver of the truck wears earplugs during deliveries, which can take up to 40 minutes.
Klotz and others eventually sent a letter and photos of the violations to hospital CEO Dan McLean.
“Trucks are regularly parked blocking the sidewalk, in violation of the conditions set up by the BZA,” Miller said. “I’ve turned all these complaints over to the police because I can’t be out there monitoring them all day.”
McLean responded to Foggy Bottom residents in a formal letter dated Nov. 7.
“It is certainly our intention to abide by all conditions of the permits and certificate of occupancy as listed by the BZA,” wrote McLean. “Violations of these conditions will be addressed immediately.”
A meeting is scheduled between McLean and several Foggy Bottom residents next week.
Some residents said they are frustrated by the disturbances because they had predicted such problems would arise from the new hospital location.
“It’s terrible,” resident Maria Tyler said. “After people have paid taxes to the city and invested their savings in these beautiful homes, they have to live with this terrible noise.”
Police officials said they will continue to monitor the situation.
“You have a very complex situation in Foggy Bottom, with so many people trying to live, work and go to school,” Moore said. “There are so many municipal conditions that apply to the situation that it can get confusing, but it’s important to follow the rules as much as possible.”