D.C. residents in upper Northwest are upset that a new zoning board nomination has been put on a fast track, saying the move to displace a current board member is a scheme by developers to get their way.
Ruthanne G. Miller is set to succeed Anne M. Renshaw, an advisory neighborhood commissioner, on the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) by this month, raising the ire of residents living in Wards 3 and 4. They question the circumstances surrounding the change in representation.
"I am very upset that the mayor has not brought Mrs. Renshaw back, because she has done a very good job," said D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat.
Zoning issues are a major concern of neighborhood associations and neighborhood commissioners in the city. The board is an independent, quasijudicial body empowered to grant variances from zoning regulations, approve special exceptions for land use and hear appeals of actions taken by the zoning administrator.
George Idelson, president of the Cleveland Park Citizens' Association, said part of the dispute over Mrs. Miller's nomination is because she is married to the clerk for the council's Committee of the Whole, headed by Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat.
"People may think something is going on there, but the real issue is that Anne has a reputation for being pro-neighborhood and [pro]-community on the BZA, and we like her just fine," Mr. Idelson said.
He said the fact that Mrs. Miller's nomination was pushed for swift approval with little notice to the community hasn't helped the situation.
Mrs. Renshaw's term on the zoning board ended Sept. 30 last year. She said she notified Mayor Anthony A. Williams in October that she would seek a second term. A month later, Ron Collins, director of the Office of Boards and Commissions, indicated to Mrs. Renshaw that he had been told the opposite.
"In early March, I was made aware of six complaints about me that were submitted to the Boards and Commissions Office and that I would not be reappointed," Mrs. Renshaw said.
Although five neighborhood commissions and Mr. Fenty sent letters of recommendation on her behalf, several of them were missing from her file, "as were any documents or other materials about the complaints," she said.
Cleveland Park resident Sallie Beckner, who sent letters to every council member to look into the issue, said the phantom complaints came from developers and their lawyers, upset that Mrs. Renshaw was asking too many questions about zoning requests by several private schools in Ward 3 for special exemptions for enrollment and expansion.
Mrs. Renshaw said city officials refused to tell her the sources of the complaints. She said she has filed a Freedom of Information Act request, but city officials haven't responded.
Mr. Collins declined to speak with The Washington Times about the issue, but he was peppered with questions Monday night at a meeting sponsored by the Foggy Bottom Citizens' Association, which also opposes the fast-track process to replace Mrs. Renshaw.
"It gives the perception that if you are on a board or commission, it is more important that you agree with the mayor than follow guidelines and listen to community concerns," Mr. Fenty said.
Some residents said the situation gives the appearance of collusion with developers by the mayor and Mrs. Cropp.
"It looks like they wanted to get a board member more favorable to their way of thinking," said one resident who did not want to be named.
Mrs. Cropp has scheduled a public roundtable discussion on Mrs. Miller's nomination for Wednesday, but Mr. Idelson said the community deserves a formal hearing on the matter.
Council members have remained hushed on the issue but are concerned about how much attention is being paid to a simple board appointment.
This is the latest board and commission nomination by Mr. Williams to upset residents and council members.
There are two vacancies on the D.C. Board of Education, and the terms of all three members of the Board of Elections and Ethics will expire in June.
There has been no movement to nominate members to those boards, leaving residents to wonder what is so important about the zoning board nomination that it is being rushed.
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