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A preliminary rendering of 5333 Connecticut from Cafritz

Well this ought to be fun. I’ll be moderating a panel on D.C. development tonight (come!), which means I’ll be missing out on what promises to be a deliciously contentious Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting. But I’d encourage anyone in the Chevy Chase neighborhood to stop by.

Here’s the back story: Chevy Chase neighbors are very unhappy about a 263-apartment building planned by Calvin Cafritz Enterprises at 5333 Connecticut Ave. NW. They argue that the development is out of proportion with the neighborhood, and that they should have some say in the matter. But they don’t—-it’s a matter-of-right project.

Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh told me in March that she was thinking about introducing legislation that would give ANCs a chance to weigh in on matter-of-right residential development. But absent that, the developer can go ahead and build, regardless of what the neighbors think, as long as they don’t violate the zoning code.

Cafritz, it seems, has chosen to consult the neighbors anyway. The Ward3DC blog reports that Cafritz has reached a memorandum of understanding with the local ANC, which is now encouraging neighbors to drop their opposition. The MOU would, among other points, require Cafritz to scrap the building’s planned glassy exterior in favor of something better suited to the neighborhood, and to add more parking spaces.

So are the neighbors satisfied? Hardly.

The 5333 Connecticut Neighborhood Coalition, which has fought the project, slams the MOU in a statement, saying that it “doesn’t address the community’s most important requests for change and could be damaging to the community’s appeals of the developers’ plans.”

“As it now appears,” the statement continues, “ANC commissioners engaged in a separate negotiation with the Cafritz side about which the 5333 CNC was not told. The resulting agreement fails to address key issues in the 5333 CNC-Cafritz negotiations, is vague, unenforceable and makes new concessions to the developer with little in return for the community.”

ANC 3G is meeting tonight at 7:30 at the Chevy Chase Community Center. Be sure to bring popcorn.