Last night the ANC testified before the Zoning Commission on the Georgetown University campus plan. You can watch it here.
In many ways, this was a presentation years in preparation. Commissioners Ron Lewis, Bill Starrels, Jeff Jones, and Ed Solomon each spoke, but it was Ron that carried the heavy load. Where the Office of Planning’s case was undermined last week due to an apparent lack of preparation, nothing of the sort was on display last night.
Essentially the story that the ANC put forth was this: the 2000 campus plan was adopted on the promise that it would remedy an existing problem with students in the neighborhood. The ANC argues that not only did the plan not address the existing problem, the school took advantage of the lack of an overall student cap and grew every category but traditional undergrads as much as possible. Thus, they argue, the situation with the undergrads are at best no better than they were before the 2000 plan, and in the meantime, a new problem with excessive graduate and non-traditional student growth has produced a new problem.
GU attorney Maureen Dwyer was much less successful poking holes in the ANC’s case than she was with the OP’s presentation. Simply put, Ron and the others have lived and breathed this topic much more than the staff at Office of Planning ever could, so they were much better equipped to parry Dwyer’s cross-examination.
The commissioners seemed impressed with the ANC’s presentation as well, but so far it’s been difficult to get a good read on which way they’re leaning. But it was probably a good night for the anti-campus plan crowd.
On the plus side for the university, seven witnesses were able to testify in favor of the plan at the end of the night. This testimony included three non-GU-affiliated residents, most notably among them former ANC commissioners Grace Bateman and Jonda McFarlane. Bateman and McFarlane both argued that the student problem is overblown and that there are many benefits in having students around which outweigh the drawbacks.
6 responses to “ANC Testifies Before Zoning Commission”
Yet despite these years of preparation, all they could manage was argument by anecdote (some dude yelled BYEEE MARRYYYY! at 11:45 p.m.!), cherry-picked data that doesn’t pass the laugh test (Georgetown University is too dense! It’s denser than all of its peers… except for Columbia and NYU… or any school in DC…), and unsubstantiated claims (School of Continuing Studies bachelor’s students and second-degree nursing students are running amok!).
And the ANC was the well-prepared and coherent party! Hawkinson from DDOT and George “students who are married and have children should live on campus” Oberlander embarrassed themselves.
All in all, Ed Solomon’s facial expression during the part when he had to admit that he rents to students was worth the price of admission by itself.
My advice to the Office of Planning?
Listen to Grace Bateman and Jonda McFarlane. Both have worked diligently on behalf of the residents of Georgetown for years and years. Both speak with reasoned thinking. Neither is hysterical on any subject, especially Town and Gown issues and GU vs. Residents. As a longtime observer of the community issues I would give Grace and Jonda preference in judging the pros and cons of this issue.
Bateman and McFarlane both argued that the student problem is overblown and that there are many benefits in having students around which outweigh the drawbacks.
You really should point out that a) Grace Bateman was a notoriously pro-university member of the ANC during her brief, crisis-filled term on the ANC, and b) Jonda McFarlane was a GU-paid lobbyist of her neighbors when the University was attempting to turn the Wormley School property into the site of a new public policy school.
You can read all about Bateman in the Post archives, if you’re curious. McFarlane appeared at meetings I myself attended, attempting to persuade her neighbors that the University’s plans for the site was consistent with the promises it made to the ANC when it bought the site. (No sale.)
I don’t know how much legal work Bateman may have done for GU over the past few decades, but she and McFarlane are hardly unbiased here. Did anyone even ask them if they were on GU’s payroll?
@GU Graduate — are you insinuating that nobody who lives in the neighborhood could reasonably support the campus plan without being on GU payroll? As an ANC2E resident for the past four years (Foxhall for 2 before that, and in the area for 14), I resent that remark.
For what it’s worth, while I have come across the occasional noise or trash annoyances from students or others in group house, my experience has hardly reflected in the description of a neighborhood “swamped by objectionable impacts” as described in the ANC presentation.
What makes someone unbiased in your view? And to what extent should someone’s affiliation with the university disqualify their view? Because depending on your standard, your “name” just might render your opinion biased as well.
When it comes to neighborhood politics (or democracy in general), we’re all basing our opinions on our own observations, opinions, experiences, judgments, and yes, biases.
As someone once said to someone who’s lived in Georgetown even longer than you have: “Follow the money.”
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