Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Update: Harris Teeter Beverage Battle Brews

More legal wrangling around the new Harris Teeter in Adams Morgan. This time its over alcohol. The Dupont Current (Vol 6, No 28) reports that there has been a battle brewing over the beer and alcohol zoning for the area in which the store will be located. Called the Reed-Cooke Overlay District, this sub-neighborhood of Adams Morgan is largely residential and the Harris Teeter project has been the source of much debate for nearby residents since the deal was made public nearly four years ago. The southern grocery chain's newest DC area store will occupy the old Citadel skating rink at the corner of Kalorama Road and 17th Street NW.

Parking and traffic issues had dominated the early debate over the project, but now specifics of how the store will affect the neighborhood have to be worked out. As part of a fairly complicated bureaucratic procedure, the Zoning Commission wants to decide the meaning of rules listed in the Zoning Regulations. Two passages clearly apply to the Harris Teeter project: "Encourage small-scale business development that will not adversely affect the residential community" (Sec. 1400.2) and "The following uses shall be alcoholic beverage sales" (Sec. 1401.1). Seems cut and dry. The provisions have been in place since 1989. The Zoning Committee wants to meet to clarify the meaning of the provision and possibly amend it to allow beer and wine sales at the store. The amendment was requested by the D.C. Office of Planning. This debate has become a webbed tangle between some individual residents, Harris Teeter, Reed-Cooke Neighborhood Association and two regulatory agencies of the District government. Any questions on why it may take 5 years to build a 40,000 sq ft grocery store in the city?

As for my two cents, amendments and exemptions to zoning regulations should be considered if the changes enhance quality of life for city residents, or if the changes address issues of fairness to a business or resident. And in this case, another nearby grocery, Safeway, is already allowed to sell beer and wine (its not in the Reed-Cooke Overlay District). However, Harris Teeter entered into an agreement with Douglas Development and with neighborhood residents; including all the rules and regulations that came along with the neighborhood's zoning. Harris Teeter should stick by those rules in a good faith effort and as a good neighbor. Sometimes you gotta dance with the one that brung ya, as the saying goes. And the neighbors want to dance by their rules.

The Board of Zoning Adjustment will hold hearings related to the possible amendment on January 29th at 1:00 PM. Here are some recent photos of the project. Not much has changed since the last update.