Last night the Zoning Commission began its public deliberations on Georgetown University’s campus plan. While the commissioners appeared far from reaching a final decision on the plan, the contours of the discussion were well fleshed out. Watch it for yourself right here.
While all five of the commissioners attended the meeting last night, Commissioner Marcie Cohen is apparently recusing herself from the decision, so only four opinions matter. And relatively shortly into the proceeding you could begin to see where those opinions stand.
As he was throughout most of the testimony, Chairman Anthony Hood displayed a can’t-we-all-get-along attitude. He repeatedly cited the recently approved Howard University campus plan as a model. It appears that he just hopes against hope that a compromise between the school and its opponents can be reached.
Vice-Chair Konrad Schlater took the most pro-University line of the commission. Early on he cited how GU is the largest private employer in the District. Late on he made it clear that he rejected the possibility of GU housing all its students either on campus or outside the 20007 zip code. He acknowledged that a nuisance does exist from students living in the neighborhood, but he appears to believe that the campus plan is not the proper way to address those concerns.
On the other end was commissioner Peter May. He expressed the opinion that GU’s plan was inadequate as submitted. While he too was uncomfortable approving the Office of Planning’s prescription of requiring GU-provided housing for all undergrads, he said that it’s up to GU to produce a plan that addresses the concerns and if they don’t he would fall back on to OP’s recommendations.
Commissioner Michael Turnbull was the least transparent of the commissioners. GM can’t say with confidence which direction he’ll go.
In the end, the Zoning Commission punted the ball back to GU. They outlined a list of concerns that they had about the plan and asked GU and the other parties to address those issues in additional written submissions, not due till April. Thus the commission’s decision is on hold until at least May.
In a way this was a victory for the anti-GU folk. The commission essentially rejected the GU campus plan as it currently stands. And more encouraging for the anti-GU folk: the commission hesitated from dictating to GU what the appropriate measures would be. While the anti folk would love to see the commission essentially accept all of OP’s recommendations (most importantly the part about no students in the neighborhood), the end game they reasonably have been aiming for was for the plan simply to be rejected, not watered down. The hope is that once GU has its plan rejected, it will be forced back to the negotiating table in a much weaker position.
But it could hardly be called a straight win for the anti folk. One commissioner is clearly more sympathetic to the school than the neighbors, and the chair appears like he just wants this matter behind him and will seek the path of least resistance to get there. Only one commissioner seems strongly on the side of the anti-plan group, and even he is very uncomfortable with OP’s recommendations.
With all that considered, GM will score last night a draw.