18 Nov Airo AV States Student, local leader obtains permit to stop illegal constr…
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ANC Commissioner James Harnett is now certified to stop illegal construction in the Foggy Bottom area.
A student is the first neighborhood leader who can halt illegal construction in the District.
The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs piloted its Resident Inspector program this fall, which certifies residents to stop construction that occurs without proper city permits. Senior and Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner James Harnett, who obtained the stop work permit Nov. 9, said he is currently the only Foggy Bottom commissioner who can distribute stop work orders anywhere in the District.
Harnett said he attended a training, which is required for anyone to obtain a stop work permit, that taught commissioners about proper construction permitting processes. He said he can now consult with DCRA officials over video chat and get the green light to issue a stop work order if he sees construction underway without the proper permit.
“It was set up to enable commissioners that have a deep understanding of what’s going on in the neighborhood,” Harnett said. “To recognize when something’s off, when something’s not being done legally and be empowered to do something about it.”
Harnett said he can issue stop work permits anywhere in the District but plans to use the permit to stop illegal construction in Foggy Bottom and on campus. He plans to issue stop work orders to end any further construction at the 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. site that workers perform without a proper permit, he said.
The University signed a 75-year contract in July with Boston Properties, outlining construction plans for an office development building on Pennsylvania Avenue. Students complained last month that late-night construction on water pipes associated with the construction projects kept them awake until as late as 2 a.m.
Harnett said the District Department of Transportation did not obtain the correct overnight work permit to conduct road construction outside of the complex.
“We can check it out and verify permits and make sure that everything’s in order because students should not be woken up in the middle of the night, let alone during exam season,” Harnett said. “That impacts people’s quality of life.”
He said he plans to introduce a resolution at next week’s ANC meeting urging the D.C. Council to require communication between DDOT and DCRA when issuing work permits for construction completed outside approved hours.
“We need to be empowered with the tools to actually do something about legal construction,” Harnett said. “Being able to issue stop work orders enables me to protect the community and to protect students in that effort.”
Ernest Chrappah, the director of DCRA, said illegal construction – like construction that occurs overnight without proper permitting – is a frequent complaint from ANC commissioners, and the department cannot ensure that every instance of illegal construction is stopped.
“While DCRA is committed to responding to reports of illegal construction as quickly as possible, we also recognize that we can’t be everywhere at once,” he said in an email.
DCRA’s website states construction is never permitted on 11 holidays, including D.C. Emancipation Day and President’s Day. Construction is permitted Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and construction workers are required to apply for permits for any work completed outside the designated hours.
“As the eyes and ears of their neighborhoods, elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners are ideal partners for DCRA as we work to quickly identify and take swift enforcement action against illegal construction,” Chrappah said in an emailed statement.
Jared Levy, the Residence Hall Association hall council president for Lafayette Hall, said the late-night construction has negatively impacted his and other Lafayette residents’ sleep schedules.
Levy said the stop work permit is a step in the right direction for Lafayette residents, but the hall’s residents still experience loud noise while working in their rooms during the day.
“Even if they had the permit, I would call it in and request if they could change it so obviously, that’s helpful,” he said. “But I think that the bigger picture is that they can just drill and hammer and make these loud noises for 12 hours a day right outside our hall.”