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Home arrowNews arrowDecember 12 , 2013

ACHP Comments to U.S. House Oversight Committee on D.C. Height Act

In 2012, Congressman Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (Committee), requested that the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and the District of Columbia (Office of Planning, DCOP) jointly conduct a study “to examine the extent to which the Height of Buildings Act of 1910 continues to serve federal and local interests, and how changes to the law could affect the future of the city.”

Given the ACHP’s statutory role of advising the President and the Congress on historic preservation matters, staff participated in the discussions conducted jointly by the NCPC and the DCOP regarding possible modifications to the Height of Buildings Act (Height Act)(DC ST § 6-601). Earlier this week, the ACHP provided comments to the Committee, which were developed with input from its members.

The ACHP asserted that for the past century, the Height Act has been an essential element in protecting the historic character of the city in its entirety. Alterations to that component require careful consideration of their potential impact on the city’s complex and interrelated tapestry of nationally and locally significant properties.  Other highlights from the ACHP’s letter are noted below: 

  • The ACHP supported the NCPC’s recommendation to retain the Height Act in place within the L’Enfant City, and stated that for areas outside of the L’Enfant City additional study and public consultation should occur.
  • The ACHP also stated that the NCPC should consider ways to ensure that 20’ high “existing and future” penthouses on National Register-listed or -eligible historic buildings, which may be permitted in a Height Act amendment, are designed to be consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.
  • The ACHP supported the NCPC’s recommendation that the city’s most significant viewsheds should be “further evaluated and federal and local protections established.” The ACHP encouraged the same approach for historic viewsheds outside of the L’Enfant City and within the topographic bowl.

Click here to read the full text of the ACHP’s letter to the Committee.


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