Norton Introduces Bill to Remove Federal Government from Local D.C. Land-Use Policies

Jun 20, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduced a bill yesterday to remove the authority of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), a federal agency, to review development of District of Columbia-owned parks and buildings, as well as development of certain private property in D.C.  This bill, part of Norton’s Free and Equal D.C. Series, expands home rule for the District and does not require statehood.  This Congress, Norton has introduced two other land-use home-rule bills, one to give D.C. the authority to appoint all members of the D.C. Zoning Commission and another to remove the authority of the National Capital Planning Commission to review the development of D.C.-owned land.

“Quite apart from our fight for D.C. statehood, I will continue our two-track approach to achieve complete self-government for the District,” Norton said.  “Land-use policies are among the most important priorities for state and local jurisdictions.  Whether it is the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, the D.C. Zoning Commission, or the National Capital Planning Commission, federal authorities have no business in local land decisions.  Not only is this interference undemocratic, it delays and increases costs for development in the District.”

Under presidential executive orders (EOs) and federal law, the CFA has review authority over D.C.-owned parks and buildings, as well as certain private land in D.C.  Under the Shipstead-Luce Act, CFA has review authority over the design of private buildings in the District “adjacent to public buildings and grounds of major importance.”  And under the Old Georgetown Act, the CFA has review authority over the design of private buildings in the part of Georgetown referred to as “Old Georgetown.”  The Members of the CFA are appointed by the President.

Norton has introduced several bills this Congress to reduce the federal government’s control over local District matter and to expand D.C. equality. This bill is the tenth in Norton’s Free and Equal D.C. Series:

  • The District of Columbia Paperwork Reduction Act (H.R. 735) would eliminate the congressional review period for D.C. bills.
  • The District of Columbia Local Prosecutor Home Rule Act (H.R. 917) would allow the District to prosecute all crimes committed under its local laws.  Currently, the U.S. Attorney for the District prosecutes almost all crimes committed by adults under local D.C. law.
  • The District of Columbia National Guard Home Rule Act (H.R. 1090) would give the D.C. Mayor the authority to deploy the D.C. National Guard for local matters.  Unlike governors of the states, and even territories, the District’s chief executive officer has no authority over its local Guard.
  • The District of Columbia Home Rule Clemency Act (H.R. 1378) would give the District exclusive authority, like the states and territories, to grant clemency to offenders convicted under its local laws.  Currently, this authority is exercised in D.C. by the President.
  • A bill to require the Library of Congress to install the D.C. seal in the Main Reading Room of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress (H.R. 1318).  Currently, the stained-glass windows contain the seals of all states and territories that existed when the building was constructed, except for the D.C. seal, which was readily available at the time and should have been depicted.
  • The District of Columbia Home Rule Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 1408) would eliminate the applicability of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to the District.
  • The District of Columbia Courts Home Rule Act (H.R. 2769) would give D.C. authority over the jurisdiction and organization of the local D.C. courts.
  • The District of Columbia Police Home Rule Act (H.R. 3092) would eliminate the president’s authority to federalize the local D.C. police department
  • A bill to permit the flag of the United States to be flown at half-staff in the event of the death of the Mayor of the District (H.R. 3238).