Latest Chapter In D.C. Zoning Appeal Saga Pits Developer Against Developer
New hotels and apartment buildings have for years been going up with little resistance in D.C.'s Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood, but the owner of one high-rise is taking action to block a development next door.
An affiliate of Ogden Cap Properties, the owner of the 450 K St. NW apartment building, filed an appeal with the D.C. Court of Appeals last week to contest the approval of a hotel development around the corner at 925 Fifth St. NW.
The Board of Zoning Adjustment filed its approval Jan. 9 of Kline Operations' proposal to develop a 152-room hotel on the site, about four blocks from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and the Mount Vernon Triangle Metro station.
The back of the hotel would come within 10 feet of 450 K, a 13-story, 323-unit apartment building developed by Kettler and sold to New York-based Ogden Cap Properties for $107M in November 2014. Ogden Cap, which declined to comment, filed a letter with the BZA in March outlining its opposition to the hotel project.
The opposition centered around the proximity of the rear of the hotel building to the windows of its apartment units. The letter said the hotel would obstruct the light or views from at least 60 of the apartments. It also took issue with the potential noise from the hotel.
“If this project is approved without a rear yard, our tenants will be living with transient hotel guests a few feet from our windows," Ogden Cap Vice President Lester Schwalb wrote in the March letter. "This is incompatible with the quiet enjoyment of our resident. Indeed, the pattern of the proposed demographic young hotel resident activity may be disturbing to the living conditions of us the nearby long term residents. Likewise, the privacy that one might be reasonably expect [sic] will be denied.”
During the BZA process, Kline Operations revised its plan from having no rear yard to have a 1.5-foot setback from the alley, giving it a 10-foot buffer from the adjacent buildings. The hotel developer also agreed to install translucent windows on the side facing the 450 K building to protect the privacy of the apartment residents.
The attorney representing Kline Operations, Cozen O'Connor's Meridith Moldenhauer, said the parties attempted to resolve the issue without it being taken to court but were unsuccessful. She said her team presented Ogden Cap with documentation showing the hotel wouldn't have a negative impact on the apartment units.
"It’s in the middle of downtown where everybody expects to live a city lifestyle," Moldenhauer said. "It’s disheartening that another developer is continuing to oppose positive development in the city.”
The appeal was filed in the same manner as a host of recent appeals over D.C. developments that have delayed over a dozen projects and thousands of housing units. But most of the appeals have been filed by groups of residents opposing the project, rather than another nearby developer. Moldenhauer said it is unusual to see a developer appeal another project, but it is not entirely unprecedented.
The local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, ANC6E, voted unanimously to support Kline's planned hotel with conditions in March. But after learning that the 450 K owner opposed it, the ANC decided to remain neutral when asked to voice support later in the process.
ANC6E Chairman Alex Marriott said he has heard concerns from the community about traffic, noise and the building intruding on the back alleyway, and he has to balance those with his desire to see the site developed.
"It's difficult to try to pick a winner," Marriott said. "I’d like to see that lot developed. It's just sitting there. I'd like to see that turned into something beneficial for the community. That may or may not be a hotel."
Mount Vernon Triangle has a large pipeline of new hotels planned for the neighborhood. Less than a block from Kline's site, Peebles Corp. is planning a 176-room SLS Hotel at 901 Fifth St. NW. About two blocks away, Douglas Development is planning a 235-room AC Hotel by Marriott at 601 K St. NW.
The high-end hotel brands could have a positive impact on property values in the neighborhood, Marriott said, but they would not be his top choice for the sites.
"I’d rather see something else besides hotels," Marriott said. "I’d like to see more places for permanent residents to move into. I'd like to see more affordable housing."