- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2003

The D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment yesterday upheld an appeal by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5B, which represents some Ward 5 residents, to stop placement of a temporary community corrections center in a Northeast neighborhood.

In a 4-1 vote, the board decided that the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs had improperly certified a proposal to house up to 150 ex-offenders in a building at 2210 Adams Place NE.

The building was deemed to be in violation of city zoning laws, which prohibit the location of a halfway house with more than 20 ex-offenders in any commercial manufacturing district without zoning approval.

“For us to try to stretch our regulations to accommodate a new use [of land] would get us into trouble,” said board member John G. Parsons.

About 20 residents who were present yesterday when the decision was announced broke into applause and smiles of relief.

“It feels good,” said Darryle A. Carter, community resident and member of Citizens for a Safe Ward Five. “The BZA followed the letter of the law and the right decision was made.”

The ruling ended a standoff between residents and the regulatory affairs department. The dispute began in December 2000 when the department issued zoning approval to Bannum Inc. for the project.

The residents filed suit in June against the D.C. government, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and Bannum to stop Florida-based Bannum from turning the old warehouse into a community corrections center. Bannum had a contract with the Bureau of Prisons to provide supervised residential programs for ex-offenders.

The area, near Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue, is zoned for commercial and light manufacturing. Residents say the project is illegal at that location because a halfway house is classified as community residential housing.

Donald Temple, the lawyer representing the residents, said the outcome is vindication for the residents and he hopes the decision will be enforced.

“The people prevailed,” Mr. Temple said after the hearing. “God is good.”

Bannum, which has sued after unsuccessful bids in other cities, already has filed a lawsuit against Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Regina James and two against Mr. Carter.

“Bannum is a professional litigator,” Mr. Carter said. “They like to wear a community down and bully them after they lose.”

Miss James, who said she was served notice of the lawsuit on Aug. 10, said she considers it a scare tactic.

“I’m the only ANC commissioner they sued, because I’m the one who filed the complaint,” Miss James said. “But I’m a former union shop steward. I’m not intimidated at all by their lawsuit.”

Bannum refused to comment on the matter.

The residents filed the lawsuit after they tried to stop what they considered a violation of D.C. zoning laws by Mayor Anthony A. Williams, David Clark, head of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Bannum and the federal prison bureau.

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