How a Change in the Definition of 'Cellars' Could Downzone Much of Washington, D.C.

The D.C. Zoning Commission will revisit a proposed text amendment to the District Zoning Code in April.
March 21, 2018, 6am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Jon Bilous

Daniel Warwick reports that the D.C. Zoning Commission is considering a text amendment to the Zoning Code that would amount to a downzoning of neighborhoods across the District by 25 percent.

"This all comes from a debate over how to define whether a partially below-grade story, often called an English Basement, is a 'cellar' or a 'basement' according to the zoning code," explains Warwick. "This matters because cellars do not count towards a measurement of the size of the building called 'Gross Floor Area,' while basements do."

The proposed change to the Zoning Code is under consideration now because "some developers were putting in low ceilings and piling up earth or even building planter boxes to turn basements into cellars."

Warwick reports on the proceedings at a recent hearing on the Office of Planning's proposal, where neighborhood groups presented their opinions on the proposed changes to the Zoning Code with regard to cellars. At that hearing, the Zoning Commission decided to continue the discussion on April 30. In the meantime, there's another article by Neil Flanagan on the subject from January 2018 that provides additional background and detail on the potential changes to the legal definition of cellars in Washington, D.C. 

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Published on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 in Greater Greater Washington
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