Decision Summary HPA No. SO #B-582/2852
- HPA Number
- SO #B-582/2852
- Building Name
- Wetzel-Archbold Farmstead
- 4437 Reservoir St. NW
- Date of Order
HPA Number: B-582/2852
Case Name: In the Matter of: Wetzel-Archbold Farmstead
Location of Property: 4437 Reservoir Road, N.W.
Date of Decision: 10/15/1992
Type of Case/Type of Permit Sought: Subdivision
Date of Case Summary: 5/29/07
Archbold Place Corporation (the “Applicant”) sought permission to subdivide the property known as Wetzell-Archbold Farmstead, an individually designated landmark, into two separate lots. The Mayor’s Agent granted the request, concluding that the project was necessary in the public interest as one consistent with the purposes of the D.C. Historic Preservation Act (the “Act”). Several parties offered testimony against the subdivision proposal; however, the Mayor’s Agent concluded that their arguments concerned the potential development of the property, and not the issue at hand (i.e., whether subdivision should be approved). The Mayor’s Agent further concluded that if the Applicant decided to develop the subdivided property, the final development plans would be subject to review by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board (the “Board”) and at that time the objections voiced by the parties against the subdivision proposal would be ripe for review.
Mayor’s Agent – Procedural:
• The Mayor’s Agent stated that the Applicant carries the burden of proof in all disputed cases under the District’s Administrative Procedures Act.
• The Mayor’s Agent stated that there did not appear to be any “irregularity” in the proceedings of the Board in granting the Applicant’s request, and that the Board’s decision was not “arbitrary or capricious.”
• Citing the D.C. Code, the Mayor’s Agent stated that the concerns of the applicable Advisory Neighborhood Commission (the “ANC”), which was opposed to the subdivision, were to be given “great weight.” However, the Mayor’s Agent elaborated that such statute “does not require special deference to the views of the ANC but, rather, that an agency address its concerns with particularity,” citing Committee for Washington’s Riverfront Parks v. Thompson, 451 A.2d 1177 (D.C. 1982).
• The Mayor’s Agent stated that the Zoning Administrator for the D.C. Government had certified that the proposed subdivision complied with D.C. zoning regulations, and that the Mayor’s Agent was bound by such certification and must take “judicial notice” of it.
Necessary in the Public Interest:
The Mayor’s Agent concluded that the Applicant’s proposed subdivision of the Wetzell-Archbold Farmstead was necessary in the public interest in that it was consistent with the purposes of the Act, stating that subdivision of the lot should be granted for the “specific purpose of retaining, enhancing and restoring the Wetzel-Archbold Farmstead,” which was consistent with the statutory definition of the purposes of the Act. However, no specific criteria were offered as to why the subdivision itself would meet that standard. Rather, the Mayor’s Agent dismissed the opposition’s arguments one-by-one, finding that there was nothing irregular about the granting of the subdivision by the Board, and then simply concluded that the Applicant had met its burden of proof.
Consistent with the Purposes of the Act:
The Mayor’s Agent found the project to be consistent with the purposes of the Act. The Applicant argued that it met its burden of proof for being consistent with the purposes of the Act because the Board had approved the subdivision and the conceptual plans for development on the property, which would preserve the historic cabin on the property, thus facilitate the retention of an historic landmark and encourage its adaptation for current use. The Mayor’s Agent did state that Applicant’s position was “supported by the Staff Report and recommendation for the project which the Board accepted,” however, did not go so far as to conclude that such support alone was enough to find the application as being consistent with the purposes of the Act. Rather, he concluded that arguments addressing the actual development of the project should be distinguished from those concerning the subdivision of the land, the latter being the issue in question. The Mayor’s Agent addressed concerns voiced by the opposition, including concerns as to the archeological significance of the property (some argued there could be Native American artifacts at the site), and whether a letter of intent concerning necessary access for the project was sufficient (see discussion below), but dismissed them all as issues “not yet ripe for review by the Mayor’s Agent,” as any final development plans for the site would be subject to review by the Board.
Letters of Intent:
A finding of fact was made that any development at the property would require access across federal land under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. A letter of intent had been entered into by the National Park Service and the Applicant concerning such access. There was some discussion about whether a “letter of intent,” as opposed to an agreement actually granting such access to the Applicant, was sufficient to allow the subdivision application to go forward. The Mayor’s Agent concluded that it was sufficient, noting that it was an acceptable manifestation of the intent of the parties, was four pages long and went into some detail concerning terms and conditions, and was signed by a representative of the National Park Service and the Applicant.
 Although the case decision is cited as “Wetzel-Archbold,” the correct spelling of the property is “Wetzell-Archbold.” See D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites Narrative, available at http://www.planning.dc.gov/planning/cwp/view,a,1284,q,570748,planningNav_GID,1706,planningNav,|33515|,.asp.