Letter to the Editor: Zoning regulations should protect small homes

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Georgetown is known for its small row houses. (Brady Holt/The Current/January 2012)

I live in Georgetown, in a small house.

Last fall, D.C. implemented new zoning regulations governing house sizes to protect people like me from being swamped by our neighbors’ desire to build hulking additions. In theory, my neighbor can’t add a two-story 20-foot addition to the back of his house, because it would be triple the length of my house.

Oh, but he can.

The Board of Zoning Adjustment can grant a “special exception” and allow the construction to go ahead. Even when there’s nothing “special” or “exceptional” about the request — it’s just another project to build a family room and a bigger master bedroom suite.

So what is the point of the new regulation, which is precisely designed to protect people in small houses, if the zoning board routinely grants “special exceptions”?

There are remedies for people who want his-and-hers bathrooms and cathedral ceilings. It is to move. We have plenty of big houses for sale on my block and all over Georgetown. What we don’t have is enough air, light and trees. 

Five years from now, granting “special exceptions” so people can build a massive house on a tiny urban lot will seem both short-sighted and stupid — like cutting down all the trees and wondering where the wildlife went. The mood is already shifting. Just not fast enough.

Alison Schafer, Georgetown