Foggy Bottom resident sues to block Marriott construction

An active Foggy Bottom community member is suing the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment to block the construction of a Marriott hotel adjacent to the 1959 E Street residence hall.

The BZA and the developer’s contractor, Tyler and Associates, are defending the proposal. In February, Tyler and Associates applied to build a Courtyard Marriott Hotel in place of the Colonial Parking garage at 515 20th St. N.W.

The BZA gave its final approval for the construction in August, and Foggy Bottom resident Dorothy Miller quickly filed her lawsuit to block construction in September. Miller is also an elected member of the Foggy Bottom/West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which makes recommendations to the District government on development issues.

Miller filed a brief in the D.C. Court of Appeals last week which outlined her reasons for opposing the hotel construction. According to the brief, the hotel would detrimentally affect nearby residents and create an unbalanced amount of commercial property on the block, which includes Thurston and Mitchell halls.

“The BZA ignored the … evidence in the record as to the overwhelming number of institutional and non-residential uses in close proximity to the site, and the imbalance of residential uses and non-residential uses,” the brief stated.

Miller told The Hatchet that the construction of a new hotel will bring more noise and traffic to an already crowded area. “The street cannot take anymore traffic,” Miller said, adding that there already is too much congestion on 20th Street.

“I, as a citizen, resent the fact that they are ruining another section of our neighborhood,” she said.

Miller, elected to the ANC for her 16th year, is filing her suit independently of the commission. Despite this, her brief relies heavily on the ANC’s protest of the developer, the Allstate Hotel Partnership.

The Hatchet previously reported that when the plan was first proposed at the ANC meeting back in February 2006, residents faulted the plan for building right up to the sidewalk, not having a driveway for cabs and for being too tall. The commission then unanimously voted against the construction.

The hotel partnership defended itself against public opposition to the application submitted in late February to the BZA.

“The height, bulk and design of the hotel will be in harmony with existing uses and structures on neighboring property,” the application stated.

They said the proposed 90 foot building is consistent with the 107-foot tall E Street building to its south and “the overwhelming majority of surrounding buildings.” As approved, the Marriott would stand 9-stories tall with 147 rooms and an indoor swimming pool.

The developer also rejected claims that its plan would increase traffic, citing a transportation study. The report stated that the hotel would “avoid danger of objectionable traffic conditions.”

The BZA has a month to file its response to Miller’s brief. A timeframe for the court’s decision depends on when the case is scheduled to appear in court.

The BZA’s lawyer did not return several phone calls from The Hatchet, and Michael Tyler of Tyler and Associates said the owner of the garage instructed him not to comment.

Some students are concerned that walking to class at 1957 E Street or to the 1959 E Street residence hall will be impossible.

Senior Lauren Knight, a resident of 1959 E Street, said building a hotel on the Colonial Parking garage property would be an “awful idea” because of the sidewalk closing during construction. She said she was also concerned about GW’s already weak campus feel at the E Street end of campus.

“It separates the E Street building from the rest of campus even further by inserting an unrelated business,” she said.

Elizabeth Elliott, a board member of the Foggy Bottom Association, said she was asked to testify on the behalf of the ANC at the zoning hearing for the hotel. She said the situation is “another attempt to skirt zoning regulations.” The FBA is a community group which opposes development in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, especially by GW.

Elliott, who is a former ANC commissioner, believes if the construction were allowed it would set a “bad precedent” because it is not consistent with zoning law.

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