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Parties Scramble for Consensus on D.C. Height Act Recommendations

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Issa is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which will be presented with a report on the Height Act from the NCPC and District.

Lewis, who testified to Congress during a July 2012 hearing on the Height Act, told the NCPC on Wednesday that he believes it is unstated, but implied, in the NCPC’s draft finding that there is “doubt” about the District’s ability to ensure that skyscrapers don’t pop up where they shouldn’t if the city has authority to set height limits through its local zoning process. He worries that unresolved differences could result in a one-sided decision whereby federal interests “completely trump” the changes the city believes to be best.

In an interview with CQ Roll Call, NCPC Chairman L. Preston Bryant said he fully agrees with the need to reach consensus.

“I think it could be very confusing. Let’s remember that Rep. Issa asked D.C. and NCPC to do a joint study. It stands to reason that he expects a joint report, even if it acknowledges some differences. I hope we can do that.”

Bryant emphasized that the federal government has an interest in economic vitality, but he also said the city’s “sense of urgency” on raising the height of buildings to achieve that goal seems to have arisen only since Congress requested the report.

Tregoning played down the tension between the two reports.

“NCPC’s draft recommendations were actually just that — a draft,” Tregoning told the D.C. Council. “I think NCPC showed a lot of delicacy not wanting to get out ahead of the stated position of the mayor. ... It’s fair to say that they weren’t reacting to our proposal because we hadn’t put it out yet.”

The NCPC plans to release its final draft recommendation and report on Nov. 14, and the commission will meet again on Nov. 19, when it will likely vote to transmit the final report to Congress. If the city and the NCPC cannot agree, the city might send its own report to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“Both NCPC and the District government are under a lot of time constraints to try to come up with a common approach,” Bryant said. “Staffs are working as we speak.”

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