Glenbrook Rd. Ass'n v. District of Columbia Bd. of Zoning Adjustment

605 A.2d 22 (D.C. 1992)

 

RULE:

An applicant who seeks a special exception for college or university use must submit a plan for developing the campus as a whole, showing the location, height, and bulk, where appropriate, of all present and proposed improvements. To obtain approval of the campus plan, the applicant must prove that the proposed use will be in harmony with the general purpose and intent of the District of Columbia Zoning Regulations and not likely to become objectionable to neighboring property because of noise, traffic, number of students, or other objectionable conditions. In residential areas, the applicant must also demonstrate that the proposed use will not unreasonably expand the campus into improved low-density districts.

FACTS:

The board granted special zoning exceptions to the university for its plan of campus development. The community organizations challenged the site for the university's new law school and the board's allowing the university to amend its campus boundary to delete a parcel of land that had served as a natural buffer between the university and certain neighboring residences. The community organizations contended, among other things, that the board failed to make findings on certain material contested issues of fact, that some findings, which the board did make, were not supported by substantial evidence, and that the board failed adequately to explain the standard that it applied in ruling on the community organizations' various objections. Declaring that perfection was a rare commodity, the court affirmed. The court found that the board made a number of errors or omissions in the large and complex case, including its denial of the community organizations' right to cross-examine the university's rebuttal witnesses. 

ISSUE:

Should the special exceptions to the university from the city's zoning regulations be granted?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

Special exceptions, unlike variances, are expressly provided for in the Zoning Regulations. The Board's discretion to grant special exceptions is limited to a determination whether the exception sought meets the requirements of the regulation. The burden of showing that the proposal meets the prerequisite enumerated in the particular regulation pursuant to which the exception is sought rests with the applicant. In sum, the applicant must make the requisite showing, and once he has, the Board ordinarily must grant his application.

An applicant who seeks a special exception for college or university use must submit "a plan for developing the campus as a whole, showing the location, height, and bulk, where appropriate, of all present and proposed improvements." To obtain approval of the Campus Plan, the applicant must prove that the proposed use "will be in harmony with the general purpose and intent of the Zoning Regulations" and "not likely to become objectionable to neighboring property because of noise, traffic, number of students, or other objectionable conditions." 

The BZA unanimously held that the University had qualified for the special exceptions. With respect to most contested issues, the Board made comparatively detailed findings.

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