Round One of the Final Campus Plan Hearings Scored a Draw

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.



Filed under Town and Gown

7 responses to “Round One of the Final Campus Plan Hearings Scored a Draw

  1. Old Georgetowner

    Has GU ever released a list of all the residential buildings it now owns/controls between Wisconsin Avenue and the campus? (Houses and apartment buildings, owned outright or leased.)

    I suspect the university owns vastly more real estate than West Georgetowners realize.

  2. Grad Student

    Was anything discussed regarding graduate students and where they can/cannot live?

  3. Topher

    Nobody, even the anti-plan groups, have argued that grad students should be restricted in their living options. So that won’t change. The issue with grad students is whether GU can raise its overall cap to accommodate more students. While the commission didn’t make a decision on that account (viewing all cap piece as too interrelated with the undergrad and transportation issues to be dealt with separately) there does appear to be a general consensus that the impact of grad students is not great and I would predict that the cap will be raised, if not necessarily as high as GU requested.

  4. Dizzy

    @OldGeorgetowner: You’re more than welcome to check yourself. Knock yourself out:

  5. Jay

    Okay, I took Dizzy up on that, & they own less than I would have guessed: they own the 3 blocks across from the gates, the old hospital block, and that’s about it.

  6. Jay

    To be more specific:

    From Prospect Street going north:
    Tombs/1789 Restaurant Block (Square 1223): All except 3
    Square 1226 (immediately to the north): All except 1
    Square 1248 (to the north of that): All except 1

    Starting one block over (east of 36th Street):
    Old Hospital Block/LXR Dorms (Square 1222): All
    Trinity Block (immediately to the north, Square 1227): none
    Square 1247 (to the north of that): 2

    Small apartment building at 1301 33rd Street

    (They also lease Doug Jemal’s Car Barn, and an office building on Whitehaven. Leases aren’t generally recorded, so those are difficult to track down.)

  7. Pingback: Get Involved! | LiveSmart DC

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