- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The ever-tolerant residents of Hall Place and Tunlaw Road in Northwest are engaged in a verbal smack down over the fate of a narrow alley that winds between the two streets and has been closed to auto traffic for years.

The alley, which has a barrier at its entrance on W Street, has been overtaken by grass, foliage and the encroaching back yards of Hall Place.

The alley has come to the attention of the august body known as the D.C. Council after a Tunlaw Road resident applied to have the alley permanently closed, a move that caught the Hall Place homeowners by surprise.

They might have thought their neighbors were being underhanded if their stretch of asphalt were not normally a source of unconditional tolerance, love and peace.

The closing of the alley is agreeable enough to those on Tunlaw. The Tunlaw residents have private parking in the front of their premises, while the Hall Place crowd has no such luxury. The application also calls for the city to cede the land to the homeowners of Hall Place, which would lead to an ample spike in their property assessments.

If successful, the residents of Tunlaw Road would have none of the inconveniences of a permanently closed alley and none of the tax cost if the property were shifted to the homeowners of Hall Place.

At least one homeowner on Hall Place would like to have vehicular access to the back of his property, if only to have a private parking space that would eliminate the headache of finding a spot on the street. This seems perfectly reasonable, except it would require the reclaiming of an alley that has lost considerable width over the years and looks more like a path than a road.

The Tunlaw residents suggest the spot has become something of a bird sanctuary and a gathering spot for wildlife, as if theirs is a bid to turn the alley into a national park. This contention comes just weeks after the residents in the area have made public their losing battle with the rats that have increased in strength because of the businesses on Wisconsin Avenue.

The alley appears to be rodent-friendly in certain spots, given the out-of-control bamboo that stretches skyward and the compost that could serve as a warm bed.

The Tunlaw residents also worry about the prospect of cars careering out of control if the alley were reopened, which would lead to the usual senseless death and destruction that afflicts the alleys in other parts of the neighborhood. A speeding vehicle also could harm the herd of deer that graze in the alley.

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission urged the D.C. Council not to address the pending legislation in a 5-0 vote last week.

The ANC also encouraged parties on both sides of the alley to take a giant chill pill after a series of harsh exchanges that belie the usual warm attitude of the bird-watchers on Tunlaw and the parking-deprived on Hall Place.

An additional complication is the questionable condition of a retaining wall that was built in order to have a level alley. Some residents insist the retaining wall is not safe, which could force the city to evacuate the area until a study is completed.

As for who is responsible for maintaining the retaining wall — the city or homeowners — it’s not known.

To be consistent, the Tunlaw residents might as well request to pass along the cost of maintaining the retaining wall to the residents of Hall Place.

Until the city and ANC can resolve the various questions before them, the would-be Hall-Tunlaw National Park is sentenced to bureaucratic purgatory.

The birds and wildlife there deserve better.

So do the park-loving residents of our fine city.

Either Hall Place can have its alley or Tunlaw Road can have its green space beckoning all those who like to be at one with nature.

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