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Minor Change to D.C. Height Act on Way to President for Signature

Press Release

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Location: Washington, DC

The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced that a bill to amend the Height Act, cosponsored by Norton and sponsored by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), passed the Senate today by unanimous consent. The bill, which passed the House last week and now goes to the President for his signature, was introduced by Issa and cosponsored by Norton after the D.C. Mayor and Council Chairman reached a home-rule agreement on a minor change to the Height Act. The bill would amend the Height Act, a federal law that limits the height of buildings in D.C., to give the District the authority to allow human occupancy in the structures atop buildings known as penthouses, while maintaining the 1:1 setback for such structures and the city's unique skyline. The bill caps the height of penthouses at one story and a maximum of 20 feet. Currently, there is no federal limit on the height of penthouses, but the city limits them to 18.6 feet.

"I am pleased that city officials agreed on a compromise allowing modest changes, enabling me to feel free to cosponsor the bill and advance it through Congress," said Norton. "The Height Act had not been investigated for over a century until this legislation, which will allow for human occupancy atop buildings, while maintaining our city's unique skyline, and also giving the city the freedom to make improvements. Importantly, the bill merely gives D.C. the authority, but does not require it, to permit human occupancy in penthouses. It is a good example of a home-rule bill, and I appreciate that Congressman Issa kept his support of home rule for the District in this bill."

The bill is consistent with National Capital Planning Commission recommendations. Norton cosponsored the bill following a consensus reached on the bill between D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, as she had urged them to do in a December 2013 letter.


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