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D.C. Council hopes to advance Comprehensive Plan in next few weeks, chairman’s office says

The District’s guiding development framework could take a significant step forward

Aerial view of downtown D.C.
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Now that lawmakers have wrapped up the District’s fiscal year 2020 budget, they can direct more of their attention to another major matter: updating the city’s Comprehensive Plan, its main document for land-use, development, and growth principles. The D.C. Council’s goal is to mark up and vote on amendments to the plan’s introductory chapter July 9, according to a spokeswoman for Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, days before its summer recess kicks off.

Given that the Council’s recess lasts into September, that means a second and final vote on any changes to the Comprehensive Plan would not take place until the fall. Lindsey Walton, Mendelson’s spokeswoman, says changes from the version that Mayor Muriel Bowser sent to the Council in January 2018 are expected, but did not specify what kind. Walton added that the chairman’s committee of the whole has been working on plan amendments over the past several weeks, despite the budget process taking up most of the Council’s time and resources.

Following a vote related to the 2020 budget that the legislature took Tuesday, Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement Wednesday that “we need the Council to take action now” on the bill that comprises updates to the Comprehensive Plan. “Our city is growing and constantly changing, and updating this critical element will ensure we are crafting a strategy that meets those conditions,” Bowser said. She has said she wants to see 36,000 new housing units built in D.C. by 2025, a third of which would be affordable, out of 240,000 new units in the region.

The Comprehensive Plan was last amended in 2011, after being initially adopted five years earlier. In 2017, the Bowser administration collected feedback on potential changes to the plan, receiving over 3,000 proposed amendments, and in March 2018, the Council held an hours-long hearing on the bill that featured roughly 300 witnesses. This past May, the D.C. Office of Planning also put out an online “values” survey regarding the Comprehensive Plan.