With just a bit of overtime on the evening of November 12th, the ANC managed to get through its normal-these-days 2-page meeting agenda: 8 liquor licenses, 3 historic preservation (HP) cases, 4 zoning cases, 4 reports, and 4 letters. Laid out like that it doesn’t seem like much but 1 HP/zoning case and 1 liquore license case each generated a lot of discussion. We were fortunate that 2 more HP and one BIG zoning case were put off; the former to December and the latter to a Special Call meeting (Nov 19) when the ANC will vote on conditions for its support of a planned unit development at 1333 M Street SE.
During Speak Out, we learned about the organization Victory Gardens DC that is seeking empty or unused plots of urban land to convert into organic farms. One plot currently exists in 6B at 426 15th Street SE. Then came the Historic Anacostia Boating Association presentation on preliminary plans to create a recreation area and improve the boating facilities along Boathouse Row. During my first year as a Commissioner, I served as the 6B representative on a DC advisory group to plan the development of Boathouse Row. That study landed on a shelf somewhere but I found the HABA plans very much in keeping with its conclusions. In addition, this plan seems to fit nicely with the results of our Neighborhood Study on the SE Boulevard and a developer’s plans for 1333 M Street SE.
Just about everything on the agenda (see it at www.anc6b.org) got an 8-0 or 7-0 or 7-0-1 vote. The one exception was the new ABC license for Bayou Bakery to operate out of the Hill Center’s Carriage House. After much discussion between attendees and Commissioners and among Commissioners, the ANC voted 5-3 to support the application based on the conditions of a Settlement Agreement (SA)–which ANC had only received at mid-day from the applicant in response to 6B’s proposed SA based on Committee discussions on 6 Nov. Leading up to the meeting, the ANC had received about 50 emails from residents near and far concerned about hours of operation, trash handling, odors from frying beignets, and noise from delivery trucks, mechanical equipment and music.
So, what did we get?
- Instead of closing hours at 2am and 3am, the SA supported by the ANC stipulates closing hours of from 9pm to 11pm, depending on the day of the week. Noise from equipment must meet DC regulations and music cannot be “audible beyond the boundaries of the Hill Center.”
- Residents asked for indoor storage of food wastes prior to pick up. The ANC has been asking this of Barracks Row businesses of late; and we all would prefer this as an operating principle, where it is feasible, to discourage rats. But David Bell’s architectural firm has not been able to accommodate this option within the “build out” of the Carriage House (constricted as it is by both DC and Federal historic preservation standards) so the Hill Center and Bayou Bakery are going to have to work diligently to prove it is possible for humans to properly manage outdoor trash storage, which the Barracks Row restaurants have largely failed to do.
- Similar internal space constraints pertain to the community request for PCUs rather than a vent system to control odors from deep fat frying. David Guas adamantly rejected, from a chef’s perspective, the use of a vent-less hood similar to those at his Arlington place. The agreement allows him to use his preferred vent system for odor control; a system that will require regular filter maintenance to assure maximum performance.
Why not just protest …? ABRA Settlement Agreements are, as the name implies, a set of compromises between, in this case, an ANC and a liquor license applicant. An ANC can only vote to support an application or to protest it. ANC6B votes to protest either because it feels it has a case it can make before the ABC Board to obtain more than the applicant is willing to offer or in order to have more time to negotiate with the applicant. The ABC Board is the only entity that can compel a license holder to take any specific action and the Board tends to dislike any language that doesn’t seem enforceable by its investigators. Nor, in my view, would the Board ever force an establishment to install equipment that exceeds city codes or any specific technology that meets code. So, we would have had a weak protest case especially over an establishment without any prior history of bad behavior. The Hill Center knows that its reputation will be affected by Bayou Bakery operations and, thus, it will be a major force in assuring those operations don’t negatively impact itself or other neighbors.
Delay the ANC decision? The ANC had to vote on November 12 on this case. Not voting would have allowed the applicant to obtain the license with conditions in the application. The only way to delay, then, would be to vote to protest. The delay requested by the community was based on the idea that technology would be found that served the applicant’s needs and would fit inside the building. There was no guarantee this could happen and, if not, the ANC would have been in the position of actually protesting the application. And, I repeat, we had a weak case.
Part of my motion to support the SA included language about continuing a dialog among the community, Hill Center, Bayou Bakery, and the ANC. I haven’t yet figured out how to structure this conversation and am very open to suggestions. The Hill Center called me the day after our meeting; we discussed SA commitments and ways in which the Center can upgrade its trash handling and storage in anticipation of the future addition of food wastes from Bayou Bakery. Of note, this trash system is not hidden away in an alley like those on Barracks Row but is literally next to the main entrance of the Center.
[The Bayou Bakery documents from the ANC’s meeting are posted at https://www.kirsten6b.org/?page_id=1015. Once the ANC has a Board Order approving the license, it will be posted on the ANC website.]