July 6, 2018 at 4:01 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Settlement reached to allow completion of Dupont Circle church
St. Thomas, gay news, Washington Blade

St. Thomas’ Parish Episcopal Church has reached an agreement with community groups opposed to its new building. (Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid via Wikimedia Commons)

St. Thomas’ Parish Episcopal Church and the developer it has partnered with to build a new church financed by an adjacent apartment building have reached a settlement with two Dupont Circle civic groups that have blocked a zoning variance needed to complete the project.

According to a July 5 joint statement released by the parties involved in the dispute, CAS Riegler development company agreed to make some of the apartments in the seven-story, 51-unit apartment building that’s part of the church project “more deeply affordable than required by law.”

The statement says CAS Riegler also agreed to make a monetary contribution to one or more nonprofit organizations selected by the Dupont Circle Citizens Association “that are devoted to assisting those who are at risk of becoming homeless.”

In exchange, the DCCA and the Church Street Neighbors, a group of Dupont Circle area residents, agreed to drop their opposition to the project.

The DCCA and the Church Street Neighbors joined forces earlier this year to obtain a court order overturning a zoning variance the city granted to the Church and CAS Riegler to enable the construction of the apartment building and new church building.

The court ruling prompted the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to issue a stop work order halting construction of the church and apartment building. Rev. Alex Dyer, the Priest in Charge of St. Thomas’ Parish, said the construction shutdown at the point where the project was about half complete threatened to bankrupt the church if construction delays continued indefinitely.

St. Thomas’ entered into a partnership with CAS Riegler that included selling two-thirds of its property at 18th and Church Streets, N.W. as part of a joint project in which the apartment building would pay the costs for building the new church.

The longtime LGBT supportive parish’s original church building was destroyed by fire in 1970 that authorities listed as arson. The parish has struggled since that time to obtain the resources to rebuild its church while it has held its worship services in an adjoining church rectory that wasn’t seriously damaged by the fire.

The DCCA and the Church Street Neighbors group have said they initially opposed the joint project because the apartment building was too large and its modern design was out of character with the neighborhood, which consists mostly of two- and three-story Victorian style townhouses.

“DCCA is pleased that this agreement provides for more affordable housing in our neighborhood than required by law and will help, along with the donation, to address serious needs in Dupont Circle,” said Glenn Engelmann, DCCA’s vice president, in the joint statement.

“I’m delighted we found solutions that benefit our neighborhood and the wider community,” said Dyer, who’s gay and lives with his husband and the couple’s toddler child. “My hope is we can continue to all take steps to work together in the future and this is the beginning of a new relationship with some of our neighbors,” he said. “We all share this neighborhood and share many mutual interests.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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