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WASHINGTON, DC-Development plans for a 12-story office that could be as much as 200,000 sf have run into a bit of interference, as the US Congress weighs in on the structure’s proposed height of 130 ft. That height that is 20 feet over Washington, DC’s standard maximum.

Calling on the District of Columbia Office of Zoning for a height variance, project developer the JBG Cos. submitted its plan to erect the facility–which will occupy a site that is currently home to a parking facility adjoining the company’s 205,000-sf office building at 51 Louisiana Ave. NW–and won the office’s approval. But now, Congress has expressed its concerns over potential security issues that the building would pose because it’s across from the US Capitol. To that end, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Minority Leader Harry M. Reid recently introduced SA 1022–an amendment to the US Department of the Interior’s appropriations bill–preventing the District of Columbia Board of Zoning Adjustments and the District of Columbia Zoning Commission from granting the variance until specified conditions have been met.

In the amendment the Senate leaders call for the zoning approval to be voided unless the US Capitol Police Board concludes that the variance will not compromise congressional security, nor result in increased government spending for increased security; Frist, Reid, the Speaker and Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives, sign off on the Police Board’s assessment; and the Police Board submits its approval in writing to the Board of Zoning Adjustments and the Zoning Commission.

In cases presented to the city’s zoning officials, JBG consultants offer an argument that the office building’s proposed security equipment and procedures will be sufficient to reasonably prevent any compromise in security for surrounding structures. JBG is actively working with the government officials to alleviate or rectify the height-related security concerns. “We’re working hard with [Senate sergeant of arms] William H. Pickle and members of the Capitol Police who have been very helpful in helping us understand their concerns and enabling us to respond and address the concerns,” JBG founder and managing partner Benjamin R. Jacobs tells GlobeSt.com. “We hope something good comes out of it.”

“You have an uphill battle when you start off with the majority and minority leaders as sponsors of an amendment. It’s a difficult legislative battle,” Reba Raffaelli, National Association of Industrial and Office Properties vice president for government affairs, shares with GlobeSt.com. “But, in both Frist’s and Reid’s offices, they will be very receptive to hearing the arguments.” The Interior Department’s appropriations bill, which contains the Frist-Reid amendment, is currently being hammered out in committee.

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