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Welcome to the Stanton Park Neighborhood Association web site! SPNA is a nonprofit association that represents a fifty block area of Capitol Hill adjacent to Stanton Park in Washington, DC.

What's New: Union Station Upgrades to be Described at February SPNA Meeting David Ball, president of the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC), will speak at the SPNA meeting on February 25th. David will talk about three upcoming projects for Columbus Plaza: reconfiguration of the traffic and pedestrian access to the Plaza, security bollards for the front colonnade of the station, and a Bicycle Transit Center. There is a draft Environmental Assessment for the plaza reconfiguration and bollard projects that will soon be presented to the appropriate government bodies for their review, and USRC also anticipates a public comment period in the coming months. The reconfiguration of Columbus Plaza is intended to rationalize and improve vehicular and pedestrian circulation in and around the front of Union Station. When the project is completed, all vehicles will access the Station from the east side and all will exit from the west side of the Station back on to Massachusetts Avenue. While most cars are expected to turn right to go west on Mass Ave, it will be possible to access eastbound Mass Ave from this single exit. The serpentine roadway that now loops around south of the Columbus Plaza fountain will be eliminated entirely.

This project will bring safer pedestrian and vehicle interaction while maintaining the historic grandeur of the exterior of Union Station. The Bicycle Transit Center (to be located on the west side of Union Station) will be a full service facility to encourage and enhance bicycle transportation. Program elements being considered include secure interior bicycle parking; exterior bicycle parking; changing rooms; lockers, and a retail area offering bicycle rental, repair, and retail accessories The meeting will take place at 7:30 pm on Monday, February 25 in the Northeast Library at 7th and Maryland, NE. Tips on Appealing Your Property Taxes New tax assessments will be mailed out in March. If you are you shocked at how high your new property tax assessment is, even in a soft real estate market, here are some tips on appealing your assessment. Decide if you need to appeal. The current residential tax rate is 85 cents per $100 of assessed value, but no matter how much your assessment increases, there is a 10% cap on annual increases in actual taxes paid. It may not be worth your time and effort to appeal if your assessment isn’t off by much.

Check the records. Contact your assessor (the phone number is on your assessment letter) and ask for a copy of the property record card for your house. This will have more detail than is available elsewhere. Make sure that the worksheet accurately describes your property, including the rating for the condition of various features. Talk to the assessor. You can ask the assessor about the features of your house that particularly influenced its assessment, the prices for nearby houses that sold recently, and what the assessor considers to be comparable properties (although you may not agree that these are comparable). Do your homework. Assessment information about your property and other properties can be found by going to www.cfo.dc.gov/otr , clicking on "Real Property Service Center" and choosing "Real Property Tax Database Search". (You can also find information about the sales price of properties there.) After you selected an individual property you are interested in, click on "View Features" on the bottom of the page. The details available include the building area, number of floors, the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and total rooms, the types of floors and heating, and whether it has air conditioning or a fireplace. Information is available in hard copy in the Washingtonia Division of the Martin Luther King Library. Limited information may be available in other public libraries. Gluttons for detail may want to choose the "Real Property Assessment Process" on the Real Property web site, and then choose “Assessment Materials and Reports”. Get the appeal form. Call 727-4829, or choose "Assessment Appeals" on the Real Property Service Center web site. Choose the basis of your appeal. You can make your appeal on the basis of 1) Market Value (based on a recent written appraisal, settlement statement, or property insurance documents); 2) Equalization (if you consider comparable or better properties to be assessed for less); 3) Classification (based on the use of the property); and 4) Property Damage or Condition (based on cost estimates, damage claims, etc.). You can appeal on more than one basis. To make a Market Value claim you have to show that your house wouldn’t sell for what the assessment is, which can be difficult to prove. Many people may be able to make an appeal based on Equalization. For example, if your house is assessed at $750k and comparable houses nearby are assessed at $700k, you are entitled to a reduction in your assessment (even if the going market price for such houses is $800k). You may succeed with an Equalization claim even if your property is assessed at less than you paid for it. The best evidence is to find neighboring properties that are larger or nicer, but with lower assessments. The more such comparable properties you can find, the better. Document your appeal. A successful appeal requires meaningful and accurate supporting information. Simply offering an opinion with no factual basis will probably not result in a reduced assessment. Provide evidence that supports your claim, such as the details of comparable properties, photographs, maps, written documents, etc. Don’t lie; be honest about the features of your house and its condition.

Appeal in person. The first level appeal is made directly with your assessor. You can choose a written appeal, a telephone appeal, or an in-person appeal with your assessor. Request an in-person appeal, because it gives you the best chance to make your case with the assessor. If you wish, you can request the assessor to make an in-person visit to your house to see the condition. Be polite. The assessors are trying to do their job as well as they can. If at first you don’t succeed... If you are not satisfied with the results of the fist level appeal, you have 30 days to request a 2nd level appeal with the Board of Real Property Assessments & Appeals (BRPAA), an independent review board. BRPA hearings are conducted in person. DC law requires that if you ask for it, you must be provided with the assessor’s report responding to your appeal, and the list of comparable properties they used, 5 days before the BRPAA hearing. Ask for this. You can introduce new evidence to BRPA to rebut the assessor. Don’t miss the deadlines. You have 30 days to file each appeal. You may want to personally walk your appeal paperwork to the city, or to send it through registered mail. Start Using 911 for All Police Calls, Not Just Emergency Calls The District has changed the procedure for calling for city services. ALL POLICE RELATED CALLS MUST NOW BE CALLED INTO 911, WHETHER OR NOT THEY ARE EMERGENCIES. The 911 operator will determine whether the call is an emergency, and direct it as needed. All other calls for services should go to 311. (The city will eventually phase out the Mayor’s Customer Service Center at 727-1000.) Examples of appropriate calls to the two numbers are as follows: 911 - all police related matters - emergency and non emergency, need of ambulance, fires 311- all other governmental agency requests/city services - cars towed, streetlights replaced, streets repaired, animal issues, abandoned vehicles, trees trimmed, trash pick ups, etc.. Peabody Elementary’s School-within-School Needs Your Support The School-within-School (SWS) 11th annual Jazz Gala and Auction fundraiser will be held on Saturday, April 5 at 6:30 pm at St. Mark's Episcopal Church (3rd and A Streets, SE). SWS is a decade-old Reggio Emilia-inspired DC public school, serving pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students out of the Peabody School on Stanton Park. The gala and auction raise funds that are critical to supplementing the funds from the DC school system and helping SWS to serve the neighborhood’s children. Last year’s auction helped to bring music and movement programs to students, ensured an assistant for each class, and purchased much-needed technology, art, and classroom supplies. The gala and auction feature a buffet supper; wine, beer and lemonade (open bar); dancing to a live band; and the opportunity to bid in silent and live auctions for a huge selection of items, including vacations, fine dining, wine, tickets to entertainment events, services, clothes, household items, and one-of-a-kind experiences. Ticket information is available at http://swsauction.org, or by calling SWS 202-698-3283. SWS is currently looking for pledges of donated materials or services to include in the auction. The donation deadline for inclusion in the program and marketing materials is March 8, 2008. An auction donation agreement is also available at http://swsauction.org. April 30 Deadline for Neighbor of the Year SPNA is accepting nominations for the annual Neighbor of the Year award until April 30. You can send a nomination explaining why a Stanton Park neighbor has made a notable contribution to the community and should be selected, to the SPNA P.O. Box 75085, Washington, DC 20002, or to wsilagi@hotmail.com. DC Libraries open on Sundays Again Beginning on February 3, DC libraries will be open on Sundays again. Both the Northeast and Southeast branches are open on Sundays from 1 pm to 5 pm. Contact the library for more details. Eastern Market Pool Closed for Renovations The D.C Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) closed the William H. Rumsey Aquatic Center (the pool at Eastern Market) for temporary repairs beginning on February 4. The locker rooms will be renovated, including replacing the floors, lockers, and showers. DPR announced that the pool will be closed for a minimum of 45 days. Keep in mind that the last time the pool was closed for repairs, the work took far longer than initially projected.

Want to know more about SPNA? Want to find a past newsletter? Find out how you can get involved? All this and more are avilable on the SPNA Web site: www.stantonpark.org SPNA Position Statements: Capitol Place, Modified Prehearing Statement SPNA Supports Expansion of Capitol Hill Historic District Volunteer Opportunities for Students and Others SPNA needs volunteers to deliver the monthly newsletter! Delivering the newsletter around the four sides of a block takes less than an hour a month on your own schedule.

Delivering the SPNA newsletter is low-impact exercise. (Plus, when taken as directed, the SPNA newsletter has no carbs!) Students can earn volunteer credits for their school by delivering the newsletter. We also need quadrant captains (who deliver the newsletter to a group of block deliverers). If you're interested in helping out, contact Bill Silagi or via e-mail.