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Zoning Regulations Review and Green Building Act

By Paul Tummonds and Christine Roddy
January 2012
Practice: DC Land Use, Zoning & Historic Preservation
Offices: Washington DC
People: Christine A. Roddy, Paul A. Tummonds Jr.

2012 Poised to be Big Year for D.C.’s Zoning Regulations Review (ZRR) Process

After a brief hiatus in the second half of 2011, the District of Columbia’s Zoning Regulations Review (ZRR) process is expected to move forward in earnest in 2012 with the final adoption of new Zoning Regulations currently slated for the first quarter of 2013.  The ZRR process was started in 2007 and is the most complete and thorough review of the District of Columbia’s Zoning Regulations since 1958.  The Office of Planning continues to shepherd this process with input from the Zoning Commission, a 20+ member taskforce of representatives from community organizations and the real estate industry, and from the general public.

The Office of Planning has stated that it will have a draft of the complete text of the new Zoning Regulations ready for the ZRR Taskforce to review on January 31, 2012.  After receiving input from the Taskforce, the Office of the Attorney General, the Zoning Administrator, and the Office of Zoning, the Zoning Commission is expected to review the complete draft text of the Zoning Regulations at a “setdown” meeting in the Spring/Summer of 2012.  After the Zoning Commission agrees to “set down” the new Zoning Regulations for public hearings, the Office of Planning will host a series of public outreach meetings in the Spring/Summer of 2012 to explain the proposed changes to the existing regulations.  The Zoning Commission’s public hearings on the proposed Zoning Regulations are expected to occur in the Fall/Winter of 2012.  It is currently anticipated that there will be a series of hearings, likely organized by topic or subtitle.  The Zoning Commission is expected to take votes on the final adoption of the new Zoning Regulations in the first quarter of 2013.

The new Zoning Regulations will look considerably different than the existing Zoning Regulations.  We envision that there will be a pretty significant learning curve for real estate professionals to become familiar with these new regulations.  As the public hearing process unfolds next year, we will distribute information to our clients as expeditiously as possible.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact Paul Tummonds at ptummonds@goulstonstorrs.com, or 202-721-1157.

D.C. Green Building Act – January 1, 2012 Update

As of January 1, 2012, the District of Columbia’s Green Building Act (“GBA”) requires that all new construction and major renovation of non-residential buildings greater than 50,000 square feet meet the LEED requirements.    There are several important requirements of the GBA that developers should be aware of; however, the primary requirements to note are:

(1) As of January 1, 2012, all new construction and major renovation of non-residential buildings greater than 50,000 square feet must satisfy LEED requirements within two years of the issuance of a certificate of occupancy;

(2) On December 6, 2011, the DC Council passed Emergency Legislation that provides more flexibility with respect to the financial security requirement.  The GBA now allows developers the following options in an effort to secure compliance with the Act.

  • Provide evidence of cash deposited in an escrow account in a financial institution in the District in the name of the licensee and the District;
  • Provide an irrevocable letter of credit from a financial institution authorized to do business in the District;
  • Provide a bond secured by the applicant to ensure compliance; or
  • Submit a binding pledge that within 2 years of receipt of the certificate of occupancy the applicant will fulfill the current LEED standards for commercial and institutional buildings at the certified level.

The last option may be the most attractive for developers as it allows them to proceed with development without providing cash or a letter of credit that would otherwise be required to ensure compliance with the terms of the Act.  Developers should note, however, that the fines for noncompliance with the pledge are steeper than they are for any of the other forms of financial security; in fact, they are 20% steeper than the fines for the cash escrow, letter of credit or secured bond.  The legislation does allow for three one-year extensions to be granted for good cause. 

If you have any questions regarding the GBA, please feel free to contact Christine Roddy at croddy@goulstonstorrs.com, or 202-721-1116.

This advisory should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer concerning your situation and any specific legal questions you may have.

Pursuant to IRS Circular 230, please be advised that, this communication is not intended to be, was not written to be and cannot be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under U.S. federal tax law or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another taxpayer any transaction or matter addressed herein.

© 2012 Goulston & Storrs – A Professional Corporation All Rights Reserved

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