Category Archives: Zoning

Key Parts of GU Campus Plan Hearings Postponed

This week, the Zoning Commission hearings for the proposed Georgetown University campus plan will begin. These hearings will be an opportunity for government agencies, the school, community groups, and the public to testify for or against the plan. The first of three hearings will be this Thursday at 6:30 pm at the Zoning Commission’s hearing room at 441 4th St. NW, Suite 220-S.

This first hearing was expected to be dominated by the school’s presentation and the ANC’s. However, due to the school’s recent changes to their proposal, the Office of Planning is delaying the issuance of its report on the plan. As a result, the ANC has requested and been granted a postponement to their scheduled testimony. Now the Office of Planning is expected to file its report on May 5th and to testify on May 12th (at the same time and location as listed above). The ANC will testify afterwards. Continue reading

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What’s Really Going On With GU’s Campus Plan Changes

As mentioned here on Monday, GU has amended its proposed campus plan as the Zoning Commissions hearings approach. The changes can be found here, but here’s a quick list of them:

  • Add 250 beds to the main campus by the fall of 2014, or if they can’t build more dorms on campus, they’ll locate these beds outside of the residential sections of the 20007 zip code.
  • By Dec. 31, 2013, move 1,000 students in the School of Continuing Studies to satellite locations.
  • Reduce the total proposed student cap from 16,133 to 15,000.
  • Build no more parking spaces on campus.
  • Agree not to hold convocations on the newly covered Kehoe Field.

There has been a lot of teeth-gnashing around the Internet since these changes were proposed, but GM thinks a lot of that frustration stems from not understanding the context of the situation. It is GM’s opinion that GU stopped seriously trying to win over the neighbors and the ANC a long time ago. As soon as it became clear that the anti-GU groups were not going to accept anything but a significant reduction of students living in the neighborhood, GM believes that school started playing to a different audience: the Office of Planning and the Zoning Commission.

Because in the end, those are the primary parties that will decide the fate of the campus plan. The Zoning Commission will be the party actually deciding it, but it will be greatly influenced by the Office of Planning. This represents a change from ten years ago. Back when the last GU campus plan was being submitted, it was the Board of Zoning AdministrationAdjustment that decided the case.

And the BZA actually ruled against GU during the first go around. In 2001, it approved the campus plan by modifying it to set an enrollment cap at the 1990 levels. GU appealed, and in 2003 the DC Court of Appeals overturned the BZA decision and sent it back for rehearing.

The second time the BZA heard the case, it swung dramatically back in favor of GU. Much of this has to do with the fact that the minutes to the original hearing were not well kept, so there wasn’t much of a factual record for the second BZA to rely on (GU successfully blocked CAG’s attempt to add to the record the second time around). Second, the BZA had a different composition by the time it heard the case again. The second BZA review resulted in, among other things, GU having the higher undergrad cap it requested and no overall cap. Continue reading


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84 Year Old Zoning Fight Foreshadows Current One

When GM was digging through the Post archives the other day researching the Fillmore School, he came across a fascinating article from 1927. It described a zoning fight over the block facing the Fillmore School, on the eastern edge of Burleith.

According to the article, J.R. Hall owned the buildings on the west side of 35th St. between S and T. This block was zoned for residential use, however three frame houses on the block contained stores (presumably built before the residential zoning was applied). Hall proposed to knock down these small buildings and build “new and more ornamental” buildings to house more stores. He needed the block to be rezoned commercial in order to accomplish this.

Hall wanted to serve Burleith residents, who had begun to move in to all the new Shannon and Luchs houses. No commercial district was built into Burleith and the residents soon tired of walking all the way to Wisconsin Ave. for their retail needs. In fact, Hall presented a petition signed by a majority of the neighborhood’s residents in favor of his request. Even the Burleith Citizens Association was for it.

What stopped Hall, and the reason there are still no commercial buildings in Burleith is the topic from yesterday, the Fillmore School. A 35th st. neighbor filed an objection and his effort was supported by the PTA and several other citizens associations from across the city. Their arguments were based off of the belief that no commercial buildings should be in the immediate vicinity of schools. Assistant Superintenent of the Schools, Robert Haycock, argued against the change because, “experience has shown it disadvantageous to the education system and such stores become a factor in delinquency.” Continue reading

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The Coming Zoning Fight

Next Monday, CAG will hold its November meeting and the topic of the night will be zoning. While this topic sounds a bit dry at first, it is an incredibly important topic for the future of Georgetown and the city at large.

Right now the Office of Planning is engaged in a multi-year project to completely revamp the District’s zoning code. Many changes are needed to modernize the code and bring it in line with modern expectations.

The Office of Planning is also using this process to set out a direction for how the city will grow over the next fifty years or so. Central to that vision is the need to add many more residents without adding many more cars. To achieve that goal, among other things, the revised zoning code will encourage higher density of residential units and facilitate more mixed use of residential buildings.

How Georgetown fits into that vision is where the fight will be. The Office of Planning is expected to proposed regulations that apply to all corners of the city immediately upon adoption. An eventual carve out from the general rules for Georgetown is expected though. So what should that carve out look like? What happens in the meantime? Can or should Georgetown turn its back on future of the city’s zoning plan? These questions and many more will have to be answered. Continue reading


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Would You Care if Medical Marijuana Were Sold in Georgetown?

Photo by Trawin.

GM touched on this the other day, but he thinks it’s worth a more substantial post: the Current reported on Wednesday that an unnamed individual is contemplating applying to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Georgetown. So, what do you think, would you care if he did?

Under the proposed regulations, five dispensaries will be allowed to open up across the city. Patients with certain serious diseases such as HIV/AIDS or multiple sclerosis or other chronic conditions can qualify to receive up to two ounces of marijuana per month from approved dispensaries.

According to the Current article, the individual is considering a space on Wisconsin Ave. near the newly refurbished library. It’s not clear where that space could be. No dispensary can be opened within 300 feet of any school or “recreation center.”  GM’s not sure whether libraries count as recreation centers. But surely Jellef is one. Plus Hardy and the British School are pretty close to there.

Either way, assuming someone could open a dispensary in Georgetown, should they? In the Current article, ANC commissioner Bill Starrels was quoted saying that the individual’s desire to be anonymous indicated just how controversial the idea of opening a dispensary in “historic Georgetown” is. Continue reading


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There But for the Grace of Zoning?

There but for the Grace of Zoning?

Recently, there has been much gnashing of teeth over the supposed decline and fall of Cleveland Park. Blogs have bemoaned it for a while, but the angst gained a higher profile last week when the Washington Post focused its attention on the puzzling growth of vacant storefronts in the historically stable Northwest neighborhood.

The Post wrote:

[M]ost businesses in other parking-starved areas, such as Dupont Circle and Georgetown, appear — so far, at least — to be weathering the economic downturn. In Cleveland Park, 11 of 64 storefronts are vacant.

This recent attention comes in the wake of several high-profile tenants in Cleveland Park closing their doors, including Magruder’s, 7-11, and Starbucks(!). But many are not content to put the blame solely on the economic climate. Rather, many argue that Cleveland Park’s supposedly restrictive zoning regulations: Continue reading

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