Conservancy testimony expresses concern about lack of enforcement of Demolition by Neglect regulations.
In testimony before the DC Council’s Committee of the Whole Oversight Hearing on the Office of Planning (OP) and Historic Preservation Office (HPO) , Conservancy President Loretta Neumann, urged continued support for OP/HPO. She also expressed concern that HPO had not yet developed regulations to implement the DC Historic Preservation Act’s “Demolition by Neglect” provisions, which is now a decade old.
The Conservancy brought the deteriorating condition of the historic Takoma Theatre and lack of maintenance by the owner, Mr. Milton McGinty, to the attention of HPO. Because no regulations had been developed HPO was unable to act. Ms. Neumann urged the Council to support the development of these regulations by HPO.
Testimony by Ms. Loretta Neumann, President of the Takoma Theatre Conservancy to the DC Council’s Committee of the Whole Oversight Hearing, February 16, 2011
Councilmember Muriel Bowser hosts community meeting on Takoma Theatre maintenance issues.
At a public meeting convened by CM Bowser, DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) reported on recent inspections of the Theatre to concerned theater neighbors and community members. Following an inspection of the Takoma Theatre the agency served the owner with a Notice of Violation relating to the condition of the shuttered building. Under the Notice the owner, Mr. Milton McGinty, has 30 days (until Nov 22) to abate the conditions. The inspection conducted by DCRA officials with Mr. McGinty, found that two corrective items would be required: to fix the holes in the leaking roof, and to paint the currently peeling façade areas.
Following questions from the audience, DCRA officials outlined the processes to follow the Notice. If the owner complies, no further actions would be taken. If the conditions are not abated, DCRA will file a Notice of Infraction. The owner will then have 15 days to appeal to the Office of Administrative Hearings. If an Appeal is filed, the process then moves to the Court system. If no appeal is filed, the owner would be subject to a series of progressively increasing fines for not performing the corrective actions.
Community members had expressed concerns about the deterioration of the building, a contributing structure in the Takoma Historic District, and a circulating letter from Mr. McGinty stating he would no longer maintain the facility. Participants suggested that the owner might be exercising “demolition by neglect.”
CM Bowser advocated continuing to seek a working solution with Mr. McGinty that would not be round-after-round of fines and taxes, while acknowledging that the DC government with its economic shortfalls could not be the prime funding agent of that solution.