Decision Summary HPA No. 08-141
- HPA Number
- Building Name
- Third Church Christ Scientist
- 900 16th St. NW
- Date of Order
HPA Number: 08-141
Case Name: In the Matter of: Third Church of Christ, Scientist, Washington, D.C. Application for Demolition of Church Building at 900 16th Street, N.W.
Location of Property: Square 185, portion of lot 41
Date of Decision: 05/12/2009 (Harriet Tregoning, Mayor’s Agent for Historic Preservation)
Type of Case/Type of Permit Sought: Demolition
Date of Case Summary: 08/01/11
Summary of Decision:
The Third Church of Christ, Scientist, Washington, D.C. (“Applicant”) requested a demolition permit for its church building located at 900 16th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006. A month after the application, the Historic Preservation Review Board (“HPRB”) designated the building as an historic landmark and part of the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites.
Pursuant to Section 5 (c) of the Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978, a permit may not be issued unless “the Mayor finds that issuance of permit is necessary in the public interest, or that failure to issue a permit will result in unreasonable economic hardship to the owner.” D.C. Official Code §§ 6-1104 (c) and (e), The Applicant claimed that denial of the permit would cause an unreasonable economic hardship because the cost of repairs, maintenance, and improvements needed for the adaptive reuse of the church would cause the Applicant to go out of business in less than eight years. Additionally, the Applicant asserted that the Mayor’s Agent was bound to consider claimed violations of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. §2000bb et seq. (1993) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq. (2000).
The Mayor’s Agent declined to address the Applicant’s statutory and constitutional claims, but permitted the Applicant to preserve the issues for any subsequent appeal. The Mayor’s Agent agreed with the Applicant that failure to issue a permit would cause an unreasonable economic hardship and amount to a taking of the owner’s property without just compensation. D.C. Official Code § 6-1102 (14).
In reaching the decision, the Mayor’s Agent considered the written resolution in support of the Applicant’s request by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission. The Mayor’s Agent also granted status party requests to the District of Columbia Preservation League (“DCPL”) and the Committee of 100 for the Federal City and explained why she should not recuse herself as requested by the DCPL. In concluding that the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs may consider the demolition permit application cleared for historic preservation purposes, the Mayor’s Agent conditioned the clearance upon the issuance of a building permit to the Applicant for a replacement church.