Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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A D.C. Court of Appeals ruling issued Thursday put the kibosh (for now) on a project proposed by the St. Thomas Episcopal Parish, a 120-year-old church in Dupont Circle, to construct a building on its property that would function as both a site of worship and residential building with 56 units. The addition would restore St. Thomas’s main structure, which burned down in a 1970 fire.

From the decision:

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The four-story church element, located on the western side of the property, would include a sanctuary, classrooms, meeting space, and a large lobby that would also function as a ruins gallery displaying the remains of the original church. The residential element, located on the eastern side of the property, would incorporate the Parish Hall and contain approximately fifty-six units in seven stories. An underground parking garage would serve the whole property. 

Building the site to those specifications requires the church to receive an area variance allowing the new building to exceed lot occupancy requirements, which the Board of Zoning Adjustment granted. But the Dupont Circle Citizens Association challenged the project over construction and other associated concerns. 

As proposed, the project would “comply with all applicable zoning regulations,” the court said, “except that the first four floors would exceed the maximum lot occupancy of 80%.”

The violation in question? The building’s ground floor footprint would occupy the lot by an additional 6.7 percent. 

On Thursday, the court ruled that the church did not prove it has an “exceptional condition” that would justify granting an exception to existing lot occupancy regulations. The issue will now go back to the Board of Zoning Adjustment for further consideration.