The D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment postponed issuing a zoning exception to Call Your Mother at a Dec. 4 hearing amid community disagreement on granting the deli a variance.
The popular bagel deli, which was slated to open on the corner of 35th and O Streets in October, must provide evidence proving it needs a variance to operate its deli, the board ruled. The variance would allow the deli to operate in a residential area and prepare hot foods.
The board, a body that approves applications for zoning variances, postponed its final decision on the application for a variance to grant Andrew Dana, founder and owner of Call Your Mother, more time to pursue other options for obtaining zoning approval, such as corner store rules, which allow commercial use of certain properties in residential zones. The board will render its final decision at a hearing on Dec. 11.
Without the zoning variance, the deli would be barred from cooking hot food and could only sell untoasted bagels and pre-made sandwiches, which customers would then have to warm themselves, according to Dana.
“We are not asking for some huge leash,” Dana said in an interview with The Hoya. “We are basically just asking, ‘can we turn the toaster around and make the sandwiches for you?’”
Under the 2012 zoning rewrite, corner stores can be used for commercial purposes in certain residential zones. In Georgetown, corner stores do not qualify for this rule if they are within 750 feet of a commercially zoned property. Call Your Mother’s location does not qualify because it would be within 750 feet of Wisemiller’s Deli, which is zoned commercially.
Frederick Hill, the chairman of the Board of Zoning Adjustment, recommended that Dana see if Call Your Mother could be an exception to the rule, as an alternative to obtaining a variance.
Opposition to the deli comes from Georgetown residents who reside in the immediate vicinity of the building. Melinda Roth (LAW ’03), who owns a house on O Street and attended the hearing, supports the opening of the deli but opposes the variance due to concerns about Call Your Mother’s location.
“This really sets a precedent in the city, which is a very slippery slope, that, if granted, this variance, there’s no street that is safe from someone coming in and opening a business,” Roth said in an interview with The Hoya. “The zoning regulations exist for a reason – to be able to separate commercial zones and residential ones.”
Call Your Mother’s opening has prompted fears of residential property being devalued because excessive noise and foot traffic would deter people from purchasing homes in the general vicinity, according to Roth.
“I think some of the other homeowners are very concerned about, you know, rightly so, what might happen to their property values,” Roth said. “As a homeowner and taxpayer in D.C., I do expect the zoning regulations to protect me.”
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E voted to recommend that Call Your Mother’s zoning variance application be granted earlier this year in a 6-2 vote. Call Your Mother has not provided sufficient evidence that the variance is necessary, according to ANC Chair Rick Murphy, who voted against the measure.
“I think I can safely say the majority of my constituents in the single-member district favor the granting of this variance,” Murphy said at the hearing. “I oppose the application because the applicant has utterly failed to carry its burden of proving the property owner would suffer exceptional and undue hardship if the requested use variance was not granted.”
The vast majority of Georgetown University students support Call Your Mother’s opening, according to Georgetown University Student Association Senator Samuel Dubke (SFS ’21), who co-sponsored a resolution endorsing the deli’s opening that passed Nov. 24.
“Every student to whom I have spoken about this issue has expressed overwhelming support for Call Your Mother Bagels,” Dubke said in an email to The Hoya. “It is telling that we voted unanimously in favor of the resolution to support Call Your Mother Bagels. Students are overwhelmingly supportive of the business.”