‘Party House’ Hearing Before Board of Zoning Takes Place Wednesday

Neighbors Say Case is a Tipping Point in Protecting their Community

Carmen Ponti stands outside 428 New Jersey Ave. SE. The residential townhouse has been purchased by a PAC that seeks to use it as commercial space.

Families living in the shadow of the Capitol building say that their neighborhood is being overtaken by what are commonly referred to as ‘party houses.’ An increasing number of townhouses in the area have been purchased by lobby groups, political action committees (PACs) and trade organizations who use the buildings for fundraising or networking events with Members of Congress.

An application to rezone such a townhouse will be heard before the Board of Zoning on Wednesday June 7, and residents are calling the hearing a ‘tipping point’ for the community. 428 New Jersey Ave. SE is currently under contract to the Congressional Hispanic BOLD Political Action Committee (CHC BOLD PAC). The PAC is seeking a variance to rezone the 2,100 square foot house from residential to commercial use. The terms of the variance allow a non-profit organization to repurpose a building of more than 10,000 square feet.

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (6B01) Jennifer Samolyk said this decision could lead to commercial re-zoning of other homes in the neighborhood. “It will have a profound effect on other ANCs if this is allowed. It’s precedent-setting.”

Neighbors have been galvanized by the issue. A number of them have contributed $1000 each to retain a lawyer in the fight against the CHC BOLD PAC Board of Zoning application. Many will attend the hearing.

“It’s like we’re under siege,” says Desiree Ponti, who lives on New Jersey Ave SE. “This is taking a serious toll on the community, the stress of fighting it year after year. You can’t put that kind of pressure on residents to prove that this is a residential neighborhood.”

The Board of Zoning Hearing for 428 New Jersey Ave. SE is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday June 7, 2017 in the Jerrily R. Kress Memorial Hearing Room, Room 220 South at One Judiciary Square, 441 4th St. NW.

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